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Celebrating St. Patrick's Day Worldwide

How do people in other countries celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Parades are one traditional way, and people of many nations mount parades on March 17, including France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Korea, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, China, Canada and the United States. No matter what the country, the revelry is sure to include green-colored clothing, Irish music and food, mass quantities of Irish beer (green or natural in color), and cases of good Irish whiskey.

Here's a nugget of British trivia related to the holiday. For many years in Britain, the late Queen Mother presented bowls of shamrocks to members of the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army on St. Patrick's Day.

Paddy Parties in the USA

For celebrants in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a quiet holiday characterized by religious observance. It took the influence of the rowdy Yanks to knock the holiday down a few pegs and turn it into an annual observance of drunken excess.

The first celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. took place in 1737, in Boston. In 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the British armed forces put on the first parade, in New York City. Annually, New York festivities take top honors as the largest Paddy's Day parade in the world. In 2003, the New York parade attracted 150,000 people – not counting the crowd. (That's 150,000 people marching in the parade itself!)

Irish Political Clout and the Green Machine

One reason that Irish festivals grew so huge is that Irish immigrants became very important as a voting bloc. Once they realized that Irish-Americans represented a key swing vote that could determine an election's outcome, politicians stood in line to court the support of the Irish political “green machine.” It became obligatory for political leaders in large American cities, as well as their supporters, to be seen at every Irish parade.

Oddly enough, on March 17 Irish political leaders are more likely to be in the States than back home in Ireland. In recent years, representatives of the Irish government have attended celebrations in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, San Jose, Savannah, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

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

Among American St. Patrick's Day tributes, Chicago's annual celebration is something special. The focal point is the Chicago River, which has been dyed green every year since 1962, when the pipefitters union dumped 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the waterway. Nowadays only 40 pounds is used, an environmentally safe amount that is enough to maintain a green tint for several hours.



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