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6 surprising places around the world to celebrate St. Patrick's Day

From shamrocks and leprechauns to beer and cheer, St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally a day of gloriously green merry-making. If you want to experience the biggest and best St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, it makes sense to head to the big cities in Ireland, like Dublin and Belfast – or even international Irish strongholds such as New York and Boston. But there are a also a number of more surprising destinations that channel the Irish spirit in a big way on March 17. From Caribbean islands to Japanese cities, here are 6 surprising destinations that go all out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day each year.

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1. Montserrat, Caribbean

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It might surprise you to know that the small Caribbean island of Montserrat has one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. It’s the only country besides Ireland that designates St. Patrick’s holiday and the whole celebration is a vibrant 10-day festival. Montserrat is even nicknamed the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”. So how did the Irish influence span all the way to the Caribbean? 

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The island was first settled by Irish Catholics in 1632, sent there by Sir Thomas Warner, the British governor of the nearby Saint Kitts. The Irish Catholics set down deep cultural roots, that are still influencing the island today. However, Montserrat’s St. Patrick’s Day festival also marks the island’s first slave rebellion in the 18th century when slaves revolted against their Irish masters. The rebellion was unsuccessful at that time and the festival is a time to pay tribute to their attempt at independence, along with celebrating the island’s Irish history. 

The St. Patrick’s celebrations in Montserrat are also quite unique as they’re a blend of Caribbean, African and Irish heritage and traditions. You’ll see a kite festival, calypso competition, costume parades, concerts, freedom run and walk, Irish dancing and whip cracking, and hundreds of people wearing tall green leprechaun hats throughout the streets. If you visit during the festival, you’ll even get a shamrock-shaped stamp on your passport.

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2. New Orleans, United States

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The United States is renowned for its large Irish population, with around 31.5 million Americans (9.7% of the population) identifying as Irish in the 2020 Census. With those kinds of numbers, you can be sure they know how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. You’ve probably seen the huge parades in New York and the famous green river in Chicago… But did you know that New Orleans also throws a huge party for St. Pats every year? 

It’s no secret that New Orleans loves to party and is well-known for its annual Mardi Gras extravaganza. The city also goes all out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. There are block parties and street parades with colorful floats, dancers, music and green costumes. If you call out “Throw me something, Mister!”, the paraders just might throw out some flowers and beads. Watch out for the unsuspecting throws of cabbages, onions, potatoes or even moonpies! 

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3. Brussels, Belgium

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When Mannekin Pis, an iconic statue in the centre of Brussels, dons a traditional Irish costume of a cable-knit Aran jumper and tweed trousers and cap, you know it’s time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. With an Irish community of around 10,000 to 15,000 people, Belgium is known for its big St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The Embassy of Ireland in Belgium hosts grand celebrations including an annual reception. Head to Parc du Cinquantenaire on March 17 for a full day of Irish traditions. You can play traditional Gaelic football, camogie and hurling, or get your dancing shoes on and try Irish dancing… Or leave it to the pros who will put on a show later in the day.  You’ll also see the Grand Palace and other national monuments illuminated in green in honour of the Emerald Isle.

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4. Tokyo, Japan

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Tokyo may be over 9,500 kilometres from Ireland, but the city throws the largest Irish festival in Asia. The Japanese capital has held a spectacular two-day St. Patrick’s Day festival every year since 1992. It began when the Irish Network of Japan and the Embassy of Ireland partnered to introduce Irish culture to Japan.

Today, the festival draws hundreds of thousands of revellers for the parades and costumed street parties. The city starts early too, kicking off the “I Love Ireland Festival’ on March 16 and March 17 at Yoyogi Park. St. Paddy’s party-goers will love the two days of Irish food, drinking, traditional costumes, Irish dancers and music, that goes from morning to night.

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5. Montreal, Canada

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Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival is one of the longest-running Irish festivals in Canada and North America. The first festival was held almost 200 years ago in 1824, and it just seems to get bigger every year. This March 17, you can expect to see the city turn green for the day. There will be a massive parade with floats, bagpipes, dancers, marching bands and an enormous St. Patrick. Thousands of spectators will flock to the streets wearing green shamrocks and Irish costumes, and it’s one of the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. 

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6. Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Argentina is home to the largest Irish community in South America and the fifth largest in the world. Couple this with the renowned fact that Argentina loves their carnivals, and it makes sense that St. Patrick’s Day here is a week-long extravaganza in Buenos Aires. It’s one of the largest Irish festivals in South America, known as Fiesta de San Patricio. You’ll see colourful parades, live concerts, and a costume contest with lots of leprechauns, fairies, and elves dancing through the streets. 

It’s a beautiful blend of Irish-Argentinian spirit and heritage, and it’s all about music, dancing, feasting and drinking. And while it’s not too hard to get your Guinness fix at one of the city’s Irish pubs, you can also rely on the superb Argentinian beers to hold you down through the festivities. Sláinte!

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How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!

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