By Meghan Brennan
St. Patrick’s Day means beer, shamrocks, the luck of the Irish, dying entire rivers green – and if that’s how we celebrate here in the states, things must get crazy in the actual country where the holiday was born, right?
Well, not exactly.
The thing about St. Patrick’s Day is that, technically, it’s a religious holiday. And in a super-religious country like Ireland, that carries some weight. The day was celebrated in Ireland as early as the ninth and tenth centuries, but with fasting and prayer – not the kind of celebrations we think about today! In fact, there were years when St. Patrick’s Day had to be moved to avoid it falling during the week leading up to Easter. For most of the 20th century (up until the 1970s), pubs and bars in Ireland were actually closed in Ireland on March 17!
For the last 20 years or so, Ireland has tried to use St. Patrick’s Day to showcase Ireland and its culture – not getting super drunk and dressing up like a leprechaun, but a country of writers, artists, and yes, really good beer.
But that’s not to say they don’t know how to party.
Dublin is home to a five-day St. Patrick’s festival, complete with a parade, concerts, theater performances, and fireworks. The town of Downpatrick, where the saint is said to be buried, has a pretty impressive celebration as well. With a parade featuring thousands of participants (and an audience of thousands more), it’s not a bad place to wear the green! Ireland also boasted the home of the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. Though now defunct, from 1999 to 2007, the town of Dripsey hosted a 23.4-meter march, which, in true Irish fashion, traveled from one of the town’s pubs to the other. Sadly, the tradition ended when one of the pubs closed.
Other than those, though, many of the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are in other countries around the world – like Canada (where some groups, including Guinness, have lobbied to make the day a national holiday), the United States (New York’s parade dates to 1762, making it older than the U.S. itself), and Australia (where the famous opera house itself turns green). The day has even been celebrated onboard the International Space Station!
With 80 million people of Irish descent living around the world (14 times more than the population of Ireland!), you can always find somewhere to celebrate St. Paddy. Where are you celebrating this year?
Staying in? Learn how to make Irish soda bread from Downtown Disney’s Master Chef Kevin Dundon!