Saint Patrick's Day

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St. Patrick's Day 2004 in Cork City.

St. Patrick's Day (March 17), is the Christian feast day which celebrates Saint Patrick (387-461), the patron saint of Ireland. It is a legal holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK overseas territory of Montserrat and the province of Newfoundland. It is celebrated worldwide by the Irish and those of Irish descent (and increasingly by many of non-Irish descent). A major parade takes place in Dublin and in most other Irish towns and villages. The four largest parades of recent years have been held in Dublin, New York City, Birmingham, and Savannah. Parades also take place in other places, including London, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Copenhagen and throughout the Americas.

As well as being a celebration of Irish culture, St. Patrick's Day is a Christian festival celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland (among other churches in the Anglican Communion) and some other denominations. However, as a Christian festival, St. Patrick's Day sometimes is required to give way to a more important feast. The day always falls in the season of Lent, and it may fall in Holy Week. In church calendars, though rarely in secular ones, if St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday, it is moved to the following Monday. If it falls in Holy Week, it is moved to the second Monday after Easter. In Ireland it is traditional that those observing a lenten fast may break it for the duration of St. Patrick's Day.


Celebrations in Ireland

Because of the importance of the day, the celebrations in Dublin have been extended to a week-long event called St. Patrick's Festival, encompassing a spectacular fireworks display (Skyfest), open-air music, street theatre and the traditional parade. The topic of the previous year's (2004) St. Patrick's Symposium was "Talking Irish," during which the nature of Irish identity, economic success and the future was discussed. Many Irish people wear a bunch of shamrock on their lapels or caps on this day, while children wear tri-colour (green, white and orange) badges. Girls traditionally wore green ribbons in their hair (many still do).

The biggest celebrations in Ireland outside Dublin are in Downpatrick, where Saint Patrick was buried following his death on March 17 461. In Downpatrick in 2004, according to Down District Council, the parade, during the week-long St. Patrick's Festival, had over 2000 participants and 82 floats, bands and performers. The parade was watched by over 30,000 people.

Celebrations outside Ireland

The smallest parade is said to take place in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the United States; this parade is less than a single city block and is nevertheless the highlight of the day. Boulder, Colorado claims to have the shortest parade which is also less than a single city block.

The first civic and public celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the American Colonies took place in Boston in 1737. The first St. Patrick's Day celebrated in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756. Since then the New York celebration has become the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world. The parade itself dates back to 1762, and in 2003 more than 150,000 marchers participated, including bands, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, social and cultural clubs. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and it attracts roughly 2 million people.

The New York parade has been dogged with controversy in recent years as its organisers have banned Irish gays and lesbians from marching as a group. Gay rights groups have fought in court to obtain the right to march alongside other organizations, and there have been calls in Ireland (which, since 1992, has some of the most liberal gay laws in the world) for a boycott of the parade. The gay groups and their sympathisers would lie down in the middle of the street at the start of the parade route, and would be arrested when they refused to move; in the late 1980s such arrests averaged several hundred per year, but had dwindled to a dozen or less annually by the early 2000s. A tradition has begun in Queens, New York of organizing a parade the week before the official St. Patrick's Day parade which is open to all organizations wishing to march.

The parade is organized and run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) [1] ( For many years, the St. Patrick's Day Parade was the primary public function of the AOH. On occasion the AOH has appointed controversial Irish republican figures (some of whom were barred from the U.S.) to be its Grand Marshal.

The New York parade is moved to the previous Saturday (March 16) in years where March 17 is a Sunday. The event is also moved on the rare occasions when, due to Easter falling on a very early date, March 17 would land in Holy Week—this last occurred in 1913, when the parade was held on Saturday, March 15 because Easter that year was March 23 (making March 17 the Monday of Holy Week); this same scenario is scheduled to arise again in 2008, when Easter will also fall on March 23. In many other American cities (such as San Francisco), the parade is always held on the Sunday before March 17, regardless of the permutations of the liturgical calendar.

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The Chicago River, dyed green for the 2005 St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Some U.S. cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Others, including Chicago, dye their principal rivers green, an act that most native Irish find bizarre.

The longest running St. Patrick's Day parades in the U.S. are:

The longest running St. Patrick's Day parade in Canada takes place in Montreal, which began in 1824.

St. Patrick's Day parades in Ireland date from the late 19th century, originating in the growing sense of nationalism of the period.

Other events

Since the 1990s, Irish Taoisigh (prime ministers) have attended special functions either on St. Patrick's Day or a day or two earlier, in the White House, where they present shamrock to the President of the United States. A similar presentation is made to the Speaker of the House. Originally only representatives of the Republic of Ireland attended, but since the mid-1990s all major Irish political parties from north and south are invited, with the attendance including the representatives of the Irish government, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Féin and others. Sinn Féin was banned from these functions in 2005 . In recent years, it is common for the entire Irish government to be abroad representing the country in various parts of the world. In 2003, the President of Ireland celebrated the holiday in Sydney, the Taoiseach was in Washington, while other Irish government members attended ceremonies in New York, Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Savannah, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Korea, Japan and Brazil.

In Britain, the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother used to present bowls of shamrock specially flown over from Ireland to members of the Irish Guards, a regiment in the British Army made up of Irish people from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In many parts of the U.S., UK, and Australia, expatriate Irish, those of Irish descent, and ever-growing crowds of people with no Irish connections but who may proclaim themselves "Irish for a day" also celebrate St. Patrick's Day, usually by consuming large quantities of alcoholic beverages, including lager often dyed green, Irish beer, such as Murphys, Smithwicks, Harp or Guinness, or other Irish liquors such as Irish whiskey, Irish Coffee or Baileys Irish Cream, by wearing at least one article of green-colored clothing, and by listening to Irish folk music. (Former Mayor of New York Ed Koch once proclaimed himself "Ed O'Koch" for the day and is one of the most famous people of non-Irish descent to publicly revel on the holiday.)

Children in the U.S. celebrate St. Patrick's day by wearing green colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched, leading to several St. Patrick's Day items hosting phrases such as "Can't pinch me!" Of course, people caught wearing orange (the colors of the opposing group Orange Order) on this day are always suggested to be wary, regardless of what country they're living in.

Related articles

External links

eo:Tago de Sankta Patriko ga:Lá Fhéile Phádraig nl:Sint Patricius sv:Saint Patrick's Day


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