Regardless of your actual heritage, everyone’s a little bit Irish during the month of March. That might help explain why elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebrations can be found across the globe every year. Outside of Ireland, some of the biggest March 17 events are held in the U.S., but all of these cities host parades, festivals, and plenty of Irish dancing. Throw on some green and get ready to party at the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
NEW YORK CITY
New York hosts the country’s (and the world’s) largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, with more than two million people gathering for the city’s grand parade on March 17. The march up Fifth Avenue starts at 11 am on 44th Street and lasts about six hours, ending at 79th, with a stop at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral along the way. There are no floats or cars allowed in the parade, which features bands, bagpipes, and dancers, and typically between 150,000 to 250,000 participants. The tradition itself dates back to 1762, making the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade older than the U.S. itself.
It should not come to surprise that Dublin hosts one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, five days filled with boat races, the Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival, music and street performances, and a spectacular parade. This year the festival runs from March 13 through March 17. The parade, which takes place on St. Patrick’s Day, attracts about half a million spectators to watch the procession from Parnell Square to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And as part of “greening the city,” major landmarks throughout Dublin, such as the Natural History Museum and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, are given a green glow for the holiday.
The Sydney Opera House turns green for St. Patrick’s Day and so does the rest of the city. With a huge themed parade (dating back more than 200 years) on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, there’s also pre- and post- parade entertainment along the streets of Sydney. The parade itself is one of the largest in the world, and the only one organized and sponsored by the Irish Community and Government.
The city of Chicago truly commits to St. Patrick’s Day by dyeing the Chicago River green every season. The tradition dates back to 1961, when the chairman of the annual parade saw green dye in the river (which at the time was used to identify a sewage problem) and got the idea to use it for the upcoming holiday. On the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, this year falling on March 12, more than 400,000 people gather along the Chicago River to watch 45 pounds of environmentally-safe vegetable dye turn the murky river a bright shade of green. After the morning’s dyeing ceremony, even more spectators gather for the city’s parade at noon. The parade lasts about three hours, with dancers and bands making their way up Columbus Drive through Grant Park.
Since its inauguration in 1824, the Montreal St. Patrick’s Day Parade has never been cancelled, regardless of poor weather in past years. The festivities take place on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day and includes floats, bands, and plenty of costumes. The three-hour parade features a massive replica of St. Patrick, which announces the beginning of the celebration.
On the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, many gather for the city’s annual parade, where floats and marching bands travel the 1.5-mile route from Green Park to Trafalgar Square. An all-day festival at Trafalgar Square includes music performances, a food market, fashion show, and film festivals. If you get sick of the outdoor celebration, you can stop by any of the nearby Irish pubs, many of which are hosting themed events with music and prizes.
Often referred to as “the Emerald Isle,” this island in the British West Indies is the only place outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is considered a public holiday. To celebrate, the country has a 10-day festival, which has included a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, a Kite Festival, performances by the emerald Community Singers Irish Cabaret, and more in past years. March 17 also marks the country’s first slave rebellion, leading to additional African and Caribbean festivities in order to commemorate the anniversary.
With one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world, Savannah’s festivities draw more than 300,000 people each year. The 190th annual parade will feature horses and a variety of floats on March 17. The city’s festivities also include a celebration on River Street, with vendors and live musical performances, and the Tara Feis Irish Celebration, with crafts, storytellers, and musical performances. Even before St. Patrick’s Day itself hits, Savannah hosts a number of smaller parades and celebrations starting in mid-February. One special event is the William Jasper Green ceremony, which honours the Irish men who lost their lives in the Siege of Savannah.
Not only is Buenos Aires home to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, but the city is home to the fifth-largest Irish community in the world. The result is a St. Patrick’s Day street festival taking up 10 blocks along Reconquista Street, with music and dancing. And their annual parade, which ends at the Plaza San Martín, features Celtic musical selections and a leprechaun costume contest.