Unusual Saint Patricks Day Traditions From Around The World
The month of March is a time of transition, when Winter hurls it’s last dying gasps of defiance and Spring whispers of it’s tentative but inevitable approach and the re-greening of the world. So what could be more appropriate than a holiday that’s all about green, St. Patrick’s Day? For most it’s a day of green beer, pinching folks who forget to wear something green, and a general Bacchanalian revelry. But few really pause to remember the holiday’s namesake, a 5th century Englishman taken in slavery to Ireland and credited with bringing Christianity to the pagan inhabitants. It’s said he used the three-leaf shamrock to explain the Trinity, and banished all the snakes from the Emerald Isle, which for the Irish is a cause for celebration in itself.
St. Patrick would undoubtedly be disappointed that the original reason for the celebration, started in the 17th century, has been largely forgotten. But at least he is remembered, and not just in Ireland. It’s not surprising that St. Patrick’s day is a major holiday in America with it’s large population of people of Irish descent, especially in Boston. But the Irish have a surprisingly far reach around the world. Here’s a look at some decidedly different St. Patrick’s Day traditions.
This tropical island nation is the only one that celebrates the day as a national holiday besides Ireland itself. Home to only 4,500 inhabitants, mostly of African heritage, there nevertheless remains an influential percentage if Irish descendants and the two cultures have mixed to form some very unique holiday traditions.
St. Pat’s Day is celebrated with a huge three-legged race through the streets of Copenhagen. A rather new tradition, started in 2001, it’s quite popular and a huge boon to local charities. Even the famous Little Mermaid sculpture gets into the spirit, being bathed in green spotlights for the day.
In what has to be one of the most unlikely places to find St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, the city’s residents get involved in a big way, with a large parade and a strange mixture of East and West. And believe it or not, green sake.
Most people associate Montreal and the province of Quebec with the French, but it’s been estimated that as much as 40% of the population are of Irish heritage. So St. Patrick’s Day is a big event there, though due to the temps in March there aren’t many kilts to be seen.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Home of both the shortest street in the world, 98-foot long Bridge St., and the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade which is held on it, it’s famous for it’s strange and bizarre participants.
Founded by an Irishman in the 19th century and officially the Irish Capital of Nebraska, it’s proud to be the home of the world’s largest shamrock, a huge concrete trefoil at the intersection of two state highways. Scene of poetry readings, traditional Irish dances and one-minute weddings.
Many Irish natives were sent to Australia and helped to build the nation, and on St. Patty’s Day the Queensland Irish Association memorializes those pioneers by sponsoring an event in which the participants dress in period clothing representing laborers, ranchers, carpenters and other intrepid hard workers and craftsmen.
Another great American city with a colorful Irish history, the Chicago River is dyed green every year for the occasion, using vegetable coloring for environmental friendliness.