St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, and I’m already thinking about next year’s festival! For me, March 17th is a full-fledged day of drinking, partying, family, friends, green face paint as well as yummy corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread. I usually stick with what I know: you can find me every year on 5th Avenue in New York City wearing my shamrock antennas in my green hair, watching all of the sexy firemen and bagpipers march down the street with pride.
You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; in fact looking around me, this year I noticed that most of the revelers around me were not of Irish decent. As they say, “everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” and now I’m eager to see how everyone else celebrates this fun festival.
Well it seems that from the Far East, to the Middle East, to your hometown, there is a place for all of the world’s citizens to celebrate the spirit and pure fun that is St. Patrick’s Day. Here are a few celebrations I missed this year, that I’m considering planning a vacation around next year:
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland does it right with not just one day of festivities, but a full week-long St. Patrick’s Day Festival. The warm up includes three days of celebration of Irish wit and humor—this year’s festival featured the show “Och but I Dunno” and a screening of Studs, a movie that focuses on football (soccer for us Americans). Friday the 14th started off with morning masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ended with a free party bus pub crawl to the four official St. Paddy’s Day bars: The Bog, The Thirsty Dog, The Clare Inn, and Claddagh Irish Pub. On Saturday morning, the famous Queen Street parade kicked off at noon and featured a performance from an Irish band called Fleadh outside of the Town Hall.
If a more refined celebration is required, the Auckland Philharmonic performs When Irish Eyes are Smiling at 3pm at the Aotea Center and later in the evening, there’s a banquet at the Hyatt Regency at $180 a plate. No matter how much people have partied the night before, they will never miss Irish Fair Day at Seddan Fields with Gaelic football and hurling tournaments the next morning. The closing of this spectacular week is always on March 17th with the Green Fire Islands concert featuring the best Irish musicians from across the globe. Why this big extravaganza? Nearly 20 percent of New Zealand’s population claims Irish blood and according to this 20 percent, those who don’t wish they did.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
With Argentina having a considerably large Irish population (it is the fifth largest community of Irish individuals in the world with more than 400,000 residents), March 17th starts out with mass in various citywide churches to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint. And when the sun goes down, the real party begins. For the last twenty years, over 60,000 Argentineans have flocked to the Irish quarter of Buenos Aires, Retiro. Reconquista Street becomes a sea of green, but it not the typical linear parade. Instead, the ten blocks surrounding the area are closed off to traffic and there is an all out party in the streets, dancing, drinking and all. Kilkenny and Downtown Matias are two of the most popular traditional Irish pubs in the area and locals recommend getting there early to ensure a nice pint of Guinness.
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
For the past thirty-nine years, the people of St. Croix have been joining the worldwide St. Patrick’s Day festivities with their annual parade. Local lore holds that Crucians, a diverse people to begin with, will celebrate anything that represents the history of a culture, even if it’s not their own. This year’s parade, a big old party from the Christiansted Wharf to Company and King Streets, will take place on March 15th at 11am sharp! (Rumor has it that this is the only event in St. Croix that actually starts on time, so I would not be late). Each year there are competitions for best vendor and float and the parade also has a distinct theme. For 2008 the parade attendees will wear shirts boasting the theme, “Unifying the orange and green and a’we in between.” Crucians encourage everyone to come out in their wackiest green attire for a fun day that is also benefitting St. Croix’s economy, as each year the parade brings in nearly $50,000 to local businesses.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai’s Irish Village hosted a lavish party on St. Patrick’s Day this year. The fest kicked off with a dinner buffet from 6:30 p.m. until 11:30. Note that although entrance to the event is free, the cost for the buffet seating was seventy AED per person (you’ve been warned for next year!). Live music and entertainment performed by traditional Irish bands, Irish dances, and DJ Marky Mark keeps the crowds dancing and cheering all night. The Irish Village’s Craftshop, open from midnight until 4 p.m., has been stocked with green and orange items such as wigs, shirts, and other novelties that make the party even more colorful. There’s also room for the kids at this St. Paddy’s Day party; they can enjoy their own supervised play area with face painting, a bouncy castle, and other games.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Montreal since 1759, and 2008 marked the 184th consecutive annual parade. Montreal’s citizens take this day very seriously and with intense pride. During the month before the parade, five young women of Irish decent are selected to sit on the Parade’s Court and one very lucky lass gets crowned as the Queen. Sunday, March 9th marked the anticipation mass at St. Gabriel’s Parish at 11:30 a.m. this year. On March 16th, parade-goers lined up on St. Catherine Street well before the noon start-time so that they could get a good view of Paddy, the parade’s shamrock mascot. At the end of March, the celebration continues with the Parade’s Awards Banquet (this year on Saturday, March 29th) at Buffet Sorrento in La Salle.
In Italy there is a crazy eight-hour pub crawl that takes the streets of Rome by storm, this year on March 17th and 18th. For twenty euro, the Irish, Romans, and all visitors unite by downing pints of Guinness, Irish whiskey, and green beer. The organizers of the crawl recommend that everyone comes out wearing their St. Paddy’s gear to show pride—and to receive one full hour of all the free beer a stomach can handle! This year, the pub-crawlers met outside of the Coliseum Metro Stop at 9 p.m. for a night of drinking games and contests, dancing, and Irish songs at five different bars and clubs in Rome’s party center.
Singapore City, Singapore
Priding itself as South East Asia’s original St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Singapore’s 2008 rendition started early at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 16th . Established by the nation’s Irish Business Association, this year only marks the third anniversary of the parade, but there are still some firm rules in place: everyone is a friend of Ireland, everyone wears green, and everyone must have fun. Guinness is an official sponsor of this year’s parade and hopefully next year’s too, so you can expect lots of entertainment, including the Singaporep force marching band and a lot more Irish music and dancing performances from local cultural groups. The parade, which starts at the Riverside, opposite of Boat Quay, also awards the Annual Founders’ Prize to the group who best embodies the spirit and pride of St. Patrick’s Day.
Ireland may seem like the obvious choice for St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s obvious for a reason—Ireland is what St. Patrick’s Day is all about. There’s a St. Patrick’s Day celebration to be found on every corner of every county in Ireland on the day that honors this country’s patron saint, but you might want to focus on Ireland’s capital, Dublin, especially since it is the nation’s official celebration for the holiday. From March 13–17th the streets of Dublin are flooded with music, dancing, and even street theater and public art shows; there are over 4,000 performers and one million people participating. Finally, the celebration culminates with the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade of them all. Starting down in the City Center at Parnell Square, the two-hour parade entertains the Irish and non-Irish alike. There are local and international bands and performers truly showing that St. Paddy’s Day has become a worldwide holiday.
For a more complete list of international St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations or to find one in your hometown, visit st-patricks-day.com.
Until then, Slainte! (that’s “cheers” in Gaelic) and may you have the luck of the Irish finding the right St. Patrick’s Day celebration for you.