From the green Chicago River to sparkly shamrock decorations, you’re probably already familiar with how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. But while Irish-Americans first made the holiday huge, it’s also celebrated well beyond the States.
Whether you’re looking to put something on your travel bucket list or just curious, it’s fun to learn how different places celebrate holidays in their own unique way. As Irish people and Irish culture have traveled far and wide, so has St. Patrick’s Day. Here are some of the most interesting global traditions taking place this March 17.
Montserrat, an island in the British West Indies, is also known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. It’s also one of the only places in which St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday.
In fact, the Irish influence on the island is so strong that its official passport stamp is a green shamrock. The Irish started arriving on the island in the 1600s. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated there with a 10-day festival.
However, Irish colonizers actually aren’t the main reason for Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. On March 17, 1768, African slaves on Montserrat uprose in an attempt to overthrow their Irish slaveowners. Although the uprising failed, the island’s huge St. Patrick’s Day festival exists mainly to commemorate that rebellion each year. The marks of Irish culture are still part of Montserrat, but St. Patrick’s Day there is all about remembering the African slaves who shaped the island’s history.
One of the largest Irish communities in the world lives in Buenos Aires, so Argentina has become a hotspot of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
In Buenos Aires, the holiday is celebrated with a massive open-air festival and parade. Local bars and restaurants take part in the celebration with special Irish menus, discounts for people wearing green, and DJed dance parties. In fact, the day’s celebrations might feel a lot like those in the U.S., aside from the fact that they’re conducted in Spanish.
Singapore also marks St. Patrick’s Day with a big street festival, complete with live music and performances. The St. Patrick’s Society of Singapore sponsors both the parade and the annual Emerald Ball, a fancy, formal celebration for the holiday. Plus, Singapore has no shortage of Irish pubs where the celebrations continue well into the night.
Although Tokyo’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has only been around since 1992, tens of thousands of people attend it each year. Ireland and Japan don’t have many historic ties between them, but the holiday’s traditions still didn’t take long to catch on.
Australia, and Sydney in particular, puts on a big St. Patrick’s Day show. The Sydney Opera House gets lit up with green lights for the holiday, and many people flock to Paddy’s Markets, the traditional open-air Irish markets that have operated in Sydney since the 1870s.
The large celebration has roots with Irish immigrants and Irish convicts who were sent to Australia as punishment. In fact, Austalia is now known as the most Irish country outside of Ireland.
Most major Canadian cities have a St. Patrick’s Day celebration of some sort. As one of the most European cities in North America, it might come as no surprise that Montreal is home to one of the biggest.
Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is among North America’s oldest and largest parades. It has been going strong for nearly 200 years—since 1824. The large Irish community in Montreal helped keep the celebration going over the years.
St. Patrick’s Day as a raucous party with parades and drinking is more a U.S. tradition than an Ireland one. Historically, the religious holiday was celebrated in a fairly demure way in Ireland, with church and feasting. But over the years, the Irish-American holiday traditions in the U.S. have actually influenced the celebration in Ireland itself.
Today, you can find St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals in major Irish cities, most notably Dublin, but also including Cork, Limerick, Killarney, and Galway. While Ireland’s pubs were closed by law on the holiday for many years, these days many of the country’s pubs serve drinks well into the night of March 17. However, Irish locals often avoid the crowds on this holiday, so if you go, expect to be surrounded by other tourists.