St. Patrick’s Day

PHOTO: A stained glass window of Saint Patrick in Oakland, Calif.
The parade in Londonderry was a colourful spectacle
The parade in Londonderry was a colourful spectacle

Thousands of people have celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day with parades across Northern Ireland.

One of the biggest carnivals was in Belfast, where up to 15,000 people gathered.

The procession left the city hall at noon and made its way to Custom House Square for an open air concert.

Other parades took place in Downpatrick, County Down, Londonderry, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, and Armagh.

The Belfast parade was followed by a concert, headlined by the X-Factor’s Amelia Lily.

Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Tierna Cunningham, of Sinn Fein, said it was a great day out for everyone.

St Patrick himself took part in the festivities in Belfast
St Patrick himself took part in the festivities in Belfast

“Ultimately, it’s about celebrating St Patrick but it’s also about having fun and that’s what we need in this city; a bit of fun and a bit of vibrancy and a bit of colour,” she said.

“It’s just been fantastic, everybody is having a great time.”

The Belfast parade was part of a three-day festival in the city, which included dramas, talks, exhibitions, and arts and crafts.

Another large parade took place in Londonderry with many people turning out to see the procession leaving Derry City Council car park.

Organisers said it was the biggest St Patrick’s Day event in the UK City of Culture to date, involving 40 groups from the city.

SnakeIn Enniskillen, St Patrick had an eventful arrival – landing on an island by helicopter before being captured by Vikings who brought him ashore on their long ship.

The parade through the town was led by what organisers described as the “longest snake in Ireland”. It had been decorated and carried by hundreds of children.

This was the third year volunteers put on a festival in Enniskillen and they said that despite the tough economic times, they had been overwhelmed by the support of local businesses.

There was also a carnival parade in Armagh city centre, accompanied by an afternoon of music.

Meanwhile, almost 500,000 people lined the streets of Dublin to watch the biggest parade on the island of Ireland.

No doubt you’ll be seeing the color green everywhere today in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick.

Here’s a look at five things you didn’t know about St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick Was Not Irish

His birth name was actually Maewyn Succat — it wasn’t until he was in the Church that it was changed to Patricius, or Patrick. St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, was born in Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, which is in Scotland. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved as a shepherd for several years. He attributed his ability to persevere to his faith in God.

Did St. Patrick Drive All the Snakes Out of Ireland?

Despite the popular lore, St. Patrick did not drive the snakes out of Ireland because the island did not have any to begin with. Icy water surrounds the Emerald Isle, which prevented snakes from migrating over.

Green may be the national color of Ireland, but the color most associated with St. Patrick is blue. The Order of St. Patrick was established in 1783 as the senior order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Ireland. The color associated with the honor needed to differentiate it from the Order of the Garter (dark blue) and the Order of the Thistle (green). So they went with blue.

PHOTO: Irish politician and activist Daniel O'Connell, who championed the cause of Irish Catholics in Parliament, is depicted celebrating Saint Patrick's Day with his supporters in London.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades Are Held Outside of Ireland

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in the U.S. The Irish have been celebrating the feast of St. Patrick since the ninth century, but the first recorded parade anywhere was in Boston in 1737. The parade was not Catholic in nature, though, because the majority of Irish immigrants to the colonies were Protestant. Ireland did not have a parade of its own until 1931, in Dublin. Even today, 18 out of the 20 largest St. Patrick’s Day parades are in the states — New York’s is the largest.

PHOTO: Members of the Wantagh Pipe Band march up Fifth Avenue at the 251st annual St. Patrick's Day parade on March 17, 2012 in New York.
Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images
Shamrock Used to Explain the Holy TrinitySt. Patrick used a three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagan Irish, forever linking the shamrock with him and the Irish in the popular imagination. He would tie shamrocks to his robes, which is why the color green is worn.

Getty Images

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