Of all the celebrations that bring us together for a good time, few are as widespread, well-known, and utterly over-the-top as St Patrick’s Day. Since at least the 17th Century, people have congregated in pubs, clubs, houses, and street parties to pay a festive tribute to the Emerald Isle and its patron saint every 17 March.
Of course, while many of the traditions of Paddy’s Day are well-known the world over, such as dressing up and donning a lucky four-leaf clover, others are a little bit more obscure. Given the fact that every single continent is populated with people from Ireland and their descendants, it’s no surprise that many places have their own unique version of the traditions. If you’re gearing up for the big day, take some inspiration from these weird and wonderful Paddy’s Day celebrations from around the world.
The Legend of St Patrick
First off, let’s start with a little bit of background on the man, the myth, and the legend, St Patrick. The saint was actually born in Wales, in the town of Banwen, in 389AD, when the Romans ruled the British Isles. Shortly after reaching adulthood, Patrick was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland.
During six years in captivity, Patrick claims that God came to him in visions, telling him to convert to the Christian faith and spread the word of the Lord. One day, the Holy Ghost told him that his freedom was waiting at a nearby ship, so he fled to the closest port with some of his fellow slaves.
After a three-day voyage, they arrived in England, where they spent weeks roaming the wilderness with no food or shelter. On the verge of starvation, Patrick prayed for sustenance for him and his fellow travellers. A wild herd of boar strolled past shortly after, and the group was saved.
After some time in England, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary and apparently managed to convert 120,000 of his adopted countrymen to Christianity and built 300 churches before his death 461AD. Since then, St Patrick has been celebrated the world over as a miracle worker and a symbol against slavery and tyranny.
1. Australia: The Re-enactment
One particularly show-stopping Paddy’s Day tradition occurs every March in Australia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of people of Irish descent, many of whom were deported to the country as convicts during the British Empire. To commemorate the brutal journey and raise a glass to the Irish immigrants who helped to build modern Australia, the Queensland Irish Association organizes a nationwide re-enactment every year.
During the Re-enactment, thousands of Australians dress up as widows, orphans, miners, teachers, and missionaries of days gone by. There is also, of course, plenty of revelries, with the streets of Brisbane turning into one big rave during the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
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2. Chicago: Dying The River Green
One of the most well-known St Patrick’s day traditions in the world takes place in the US city of Chicago every year, which has long hosted the largest Irish-American community in the world. Every year, the vast Chicago River is dyed bright green to resemble the colour of the four-leaf clover. The tradition has taken place every year for over 40 years and is always accompanied by unforgettable street parties. The event organizers use an eco-friendly, vegetable-based dye that usually lasts for about five hours.
3. Montserrat: Irish-Caribbean Connections
St Patrick’s Day traditions on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat are a combination of revelry and solemnity. A portion of the island’s population is descended from the Irish who were brought over as indentured servants in the 17th century, alongside African slaves. The date of 17 March is also the date commemorating a victorious slave revolt that took place on the island in 1768, giving it significance for Montserrat.
Every year, the Irish-descendant and African-descendant populations come together for a festival that celebrates their shared history and commemorates their shared struggles. Creole food with an Irish twist, alongside plenty of Guinness, is served up, while the residents take part in the annual “freedom run” across the island to celebrate their liberty.
4. Nebraska: Paddy’s Day Mania
One major Paddy’s Day celebration that often falls off the radar takes place in the Nebraskan town of O’ Neill, which is the official Irish capital of the state. The town is home to thousands of Irish citizens, making it one of the greenest towns in America. It’s also home to the world’s largest shamrock, which adorns the main street. As you might have guessed already, St Patrick’s Day traditions in this town are on another level. The entire month of March is dedicated to cultural celebrations, street parties, lock-ins and events hosted by Irish luminaries from across the globe that travel to O’Neill for the occasion. Nowhere gets Paddy’s Day fever like this place.
5. Global: Betting On St Patrick’s Day
Given that casinos have long been a place of merriment and lively behaviour, it’s no surprise that gambling has become a huge part of St Patrick’s Day celebrations. You may have already seen the countless Irish-themed online casino games that pay homage to the Luck of the Irish, from Rainbow Riches to Patrick’s Jackpot. That’s why, every March, some of the world’s biggest casinos contribute to the festivities by putting on a wide range of themed bonuses and offers to anybody wishing to place a stake on St Patrick’s Day.
Whether you have Irish heritage or just want to celebrate the day, this list shows that there is something for everyone on St Paddy’s!