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With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, partygoers are busy purchasing green clothing, decorating their homes with shamrocks, and purchasing alcoholic beverages. However, the origin of the holiday is much different than these preparations might suggest. St. Patrick was born in Britain during the 5th century. When he was sixteen years old, he was sent to work in Ireland. Upon his arrival, he became interested in Christianity, and eventually became a missionary for the faith. In 1631, a day was set aside to honor his efforts through a religious feast. Although the celebration is based on Irish tradition, a surprising number of countries celebrate this luck-themed holiday. 

In the United States

Surprisingly, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred in the United States. In 1601, Irish soldiers serving in the military marched through New York City to commemorate the holiday. Today, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of the world’s largest processions, including over 150,000 participants. Chicago also celebrates in a memorable way, dying the Chicago River green and hosting several smaller parades throughout the city. 


Russia declared St. Patrick’s Day an annual festival in 1999. Two different parades are held. The first is performed in military-style, collaborating with the Irish embassy in Moscow. Once the official parade has ended, volunteers continue with an unofficial parade in carnival style, complete with floats, marching bands, and dancing. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina celebrate St. Patrick’s Day through the Sarajevo Irish Festival, founded in 2015. This annual celebration is held for three days. In addition to a green-themed parade, the festival hosts Irish theater companies, shows Irish films in movie theaters, and performs concerts of Irish folk music. The festival often invites Irish artists and musicians to participate in the festivities. 


While St. Patrick’s day is not considered a national holiday in Australia, there is no shortage of celebrations. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebrated there occurred in 1795. Irish convicts and administrators in the penal colony came together to celebrate their heritage despite a ban against assemblies. After a few years, this sense of unity petered out until 1916, when Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne revived the sense of Irish pride among those with Irish heritage. Now, festivals and parades are often held on weekends around March 17th in the country’s larger cities. 

All the Way Back to Ireland

The Ireland celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was originally seated in religion. For decades after the first commemoration of St. Patrick, the holiday was a solemn and alcohol-free occasion. Bars were not permitted to open on holy days. It wasn’t until 1996 when modern Ireland saw the shamrock-and-beer-filled parties in the United States, that they began to shift away from the religious aspects of the holiday. Now, Ireland celebrates a multi-day St. Patrick’s Day festival in Dublin, which attracts over a million people each year. Parades, live music, races, and green lights fill the streets for nearly a week in a stunning display of excitement and patriotism.

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