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St. Patrick’s Day, while widely celebrated around the globe, is one of the Emerald Isle’s biggest festivities. It originated in Ireland, or Éire as we Irish might say, honoring the death of our Patron Saint, Saint Patrick in 461 A.D. He is best known for running the snakes out of Ireland to the Sea. Now the exact truth of the story is somewhat disputed and taken with a GIANT grain of salt. Then again, there are NO snakes in Ireland!

March 17th is a day celebrating Irish culture with parades, music, dancing, and a sea of GREEN. Leprechauns are actually why you’re supposed to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. The tradition says adorning green will make you invisible to leprechauns, which are mischievous and like to pinch anyone they can see! Green is also part of the Irish flag (orange, white and green) and is associated with Irish nationalism.

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In Ireland you can find a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in most large towns while smaller village townspeople will travel to nearby larger towns to celebrate. Taking part in the parade is something of a rite of passage, with sports teams, school bands and families all taking part. Growing up, I participated in the parade in my town of Tralee countless times, mostly as a part of my football (aka Gaelic football) team, proudly wearing our jersey and carrying any banners won that year. Often all rivalries between teams are forgotten and the only competition that takes place is who can be the loudest and elicit the best reaction from the crowd. I also have been in the parade as part of my school band, where we played instruments such as the glockenspiel (similar to a xylophone), accordion and drums.

The largest parade is held in Dublin of course, Ireland’s capital, and is broadcast around the country. The town streets are covered with stalls selling all manor of food, sweets, toys and oddities like leprechaun beards and hats. Some towns even have Bizarres, small portable amusement parks. During the day, the older generation gathers in pubs, restaurants and in places around their village reminiscing with friends and family while enjoying live music and dance. The whole town turns out for the party – young kids, teenagers, parents and grandparents – to celebrate and create many a fond memory. We Irish look forward to this time of merrymaking and mischief and can’t wait to do it all again the following year!

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!