Chicago is famous for dyeing the Chicago River green on the day of the St. Patrick's Day parade, the Saturday before the holiday (unless the holiday itself falls on a Saturday). The tradition began in 1962, when a pipe fitters union—with permission from the mayor—poured 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river. (On the job, the workers often use colored dyes to track illegal sewage dumping.) Today only 40 pounds of dye are used, enough to turn the river an emerald shade for several hours of celebration.
Beginning in 1984, on every St. Patrick's Day the Dublin City Council nominates a Grand Leprechaun—someone who has made exemplary community service contributions, volunteer efforts and the like—to lead the parade that year. Visit to read the requirements for becoming a Grand Leprechaun, and the list of past Grand Leprechauns.
The legendary festivities begin each March, when "leprechauns" of the local Shamrock Club—a group based in New London, Wisconsin, that meets monthly to plan the town's St. Patrick's Day festivities—change the town's name to "New Dublin" for the week. Their motto? "New Dublin is to the Irish what Sturgis is to a biker!" Following the renaming is a night of Irish entertainment including caroling, an old-fashioned Irish wake and an Irish ceili (traditional dance), which is topped off by the Grand Parade and Irish Fest.
The St. Patrick's Day parade usually marches up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street. It is undeniably one of the biggest parades held in the city, competing with the nationally televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Launched in 1766, Irish soldiers originally joined together at their respective meeting places and moved in a procession toward Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Though no floats are used, more than 150,000 marchers walking north through Manhattan sporting green clothing and a happy, if perhaps slightly beer-induced, smile.
In addition to the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade, which is said to attract nearly 400,000 people, the Savannah Waterfront Association runs an annual celebration on historic River Street reminiscent of Mardi Gras. The parade travels through the park, where the traditional "dyeing of the fountains" occurs several days before. Usual participants include local Armed Forces units, cadets from the Benedictine Military School and other local organizations—and by tradition, female spectators are known to kiss them!
Boston's Charitable Irish Society held America's first St. Patrick's Day celebration in 1737 and the city continues to be one of the country's destinations of choice for the holiday—the parade alone attracts more than 600,000 people. The city holds events during the weeks leading up to the main event, including comedy acts, the Harpoon St. Patrick's Festival (featuring food vendors selling traditional Irish food), and more.
The tradition started in 1992 to introduce Japanese people to Irish culture. Each year, about 2,000 participants march down fashionable Omote Sando Avenue—which is lined for the occasion by Irish and Japanese flags—cheered on by as many as 7,000 spectators. The Irish Ambassador to Japan leads the kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing participants.
In 1995, Ireland took back its holiday! The Irish government, which officially established the festival in November of that year, had a major goal in mind: to make the festival rank among the best celebrations in the world. The event is also intended to generate creativity and excitement throughout Ireland and to project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a "creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal," according to the event's website. The now six-day festival takes 18 months of planning and a full staff to manage a calendar of activities.
Just over two weeks long, this festival features 200 events at 32 venues throughout Greater Manchester. Festival highlights include cultural exhibitions, live music, the annual parade (the largest in the U.K.) and the "feast day" on the holiday itself.
From March 16 to March 20, Italy's St. Patrick's Day festival offers live music, Irish fare, a Guinness bar, and various cultural programs.
In Copenhagen, the annual St. Patrick's Day 3-Legged Charity Race is a much-anticipated event. Participants are encouraged (but not required) to drink a half-pint of Carlsberg in each of the 7 pubs the race passes through, and must finish within two hours. In addition to the race, many other St. Patrick's Day events will take place around Denmark.
The selection of a St. Patrick's Day queen surrounds Montreal's intense celebration of the holiday, organized by the United Irish Societies of Montreal and led by the Grand Marshall. The parade includes floats and marching bands during its three-hour run. The Queen's pageant, which is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Irish Culture in Montreal, took place last month at Buffet Sorrento in LaSalle. for the history and list of past Queens, and here for tips to guarantee a warm, fun time at the parade.