St Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world

Over 75 million people around the globe claim to be of Irish descent. So it’s little wonder St Patrick’s Day has become a worldwide phenomenon.

They say everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day, and with parades and events happening from Australia to Zimbabwe, that’s easy to believe. When the Irish first left the shores of the Emerald Isle centuries ago they brought with them a sense of pride in their heritage that is celebrated every year on St Patrick’s Day.

The tradition of the St Patrick’s Day parade actually began outside Ireland as those far from home gathered to celebrate their culture. With so many Irish immigrants, it’s no surprise that North America was the first country to hold parades. One scholar has traced the tradition as far back as 1601 to a Spanish colony that was located in modern-day Florida, but generally Boston is credited as being the city that kicked it all off in 1737.

Nowadays many cities in America hold St Patrick’s Day parades, but the biggest, and indeed the biggest in the world, is in New York. The annual event involves some 150,000 people and is cheered on by two million spectators.

Other places with big Irish communities also go large on St Patrick’s Day. London stages a parade and festival in Trafalgar Square, Montreal hosts its biggest parade of the year and numerous celebrations take place across all of Australia’s major cities.

But St Patrick’s Day has also become an annual celebration in some more unlikely countries.

In Argentina, Buenos Aires hosts the largest St Patrick’s Day celebrations in South America with an annual street party that turns the city into a sea of green.

Copenhagen invites everyone to Rådhuspladsen for a festive afternoon of Irish culture and a green parade while Stockholm also has a parade and last year included a pop-up Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area)!

Germany too gets in on the act with Munich holding a large St Patrick’s Day celebration, and in Spain, from Alicante to Valencia, there are all sorts of Irish-themed events.

And St Patrick is even celebrated in the land of the rising sun. In 2023, there were over 40 St Patrick’s Day events across Japan including parades in Tokyo, Yokohama and Fukui.

One of the most surprising locations for St Patrick’s Day celebrations is the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, which is the only country besides Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. It’s actually part of a week-long festival of independence that commemorates a failed uprising by African slaves against the European whites who colonised the island in the 17th century, many of whom were Irish. But it also marks the influence of Irish people on the country.

As well as parties and parades, other St Patrick’s Day traditions have grown up around the world. Dying the river in Chicago green is one of the most famous and started over 60 years ago. But in Lithuania they have also adopted the practice, and for several years the Vilnele river in Vilnius has been turned green to mark the saint’s day.