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"Going Green" on St. Patrick's Day

Some say that if you would like to buy a passport on the black market, Irish one would be the most expensive. Those warm-hearted, open and friendly people are welcome everywhere. No wonder that St Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other National Holiday. On this day everybody wants to be Irish.

The first St Patrick's Day Parade was organised by the Society of the Charitable Irish in Boston in 1737. Nowadays parades are organised in most places where the Irish have been forced, or have chosen, to emigrate. Wherever it is Dublin, London, New York, Toronto or Sydney, people flock to street festivals. Although it is a commemoration of the Christian saint, it is a day of celebration for all Irish people, of all religions and of none.

For the Irish community in London the 17th of March is a day-long celebration. As a religious holiday it is a traditional day for offering prayers and attending mass. Some go to their local churches, others visit Westminster Cathedral where one of the chapels is dedicated to St Patrick and other Saints of Ireland. Then there is a time to celebrate with parades, parties, galas and balls, with a plentiful supply of customary food and drink.

In London several parades take place in areas with strong Irish connections like Willesden, Kilburn and Lewisham. They are not merely walking publicly from one place to another and back again but such public display of national tradition helps to strengthen the community pride and self-confidence. It is also an opportunity to show the public about Irish culture and heritage as well as involve other ethnic minorities and forge links with them.

Colourful parades always include live traditional Irish music, marching bands and colourful floats full of dancers and schoolchildren dancing Irish jigs. Irish Tricolour flags are waving high and symbols of harp and shamrock are in abundance. Those huge dogs taking part in the parades are Irish Wolfhounds the world's largest breed of dog, known as 'gentle giant'.

'Going green' is especially important on this day and everyone should make an attempt to 'go green' in one way or another. Some people wear green dresses, paint faces, dye their hair or wear green hair pieces. Others settle for green pins or ribbons and of course customary shamrock. It is also popular on that day to add green food colouring to beer. The phrase 'drowning the shamrock' comes from the custom of drinking whiskey down with a shamrock.

As Ireland is known as a country of 'Cead Mile Failte' or 'hundred thousand welcomes' the same can be said about people. Warm welcome is always guaranteed and everybody is invited to join the fun. And as Irish consider themselves as one large family, on St. Patrick Day everybody can become part it. Don't miss your chance!

  Paul Kubisztal

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