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How do Britons celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

16.03.2012

Britons celebrate St. Patrick's Day in a variety of ways - but which is the most popular?

Every 17 March, Britons from across the country celebrate the age-old holiday of St. Patrick's Day. Traditionally, the event honours Ireland's patron saint, St. Patrick, but in modern times the holiday is often more of a general celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

Unlike other patron saint holidays, such as England's St. George's Day and Scotland's St. Andrew's Day, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in hundreds of countries across the globe. For years the city of Chicago celebrated the holiday by dying the Chicago River fluorescent green, and in 2009 Michelle Obama arranged for the White House fountains to spout green water in honour of the occasion. In Buenos Aires, which is home to the fifth largest Irish population in the world, people celebrate St. Patrick's Day with all-night parties and bar-hopping. Over in Japan, St. Patrick's Day has become increasingly popular, with numerous parades held across the country. As for Britain, celebrating St. Patrick's Day can be as simple as wearing a green item of clothing or enjoying a pint among friends.

Though St. Patrick's Day is indeed widely observed across Britain, it's worth noting that not all Britons celebrate the Irish holiday. In a recent survey, over two thirds of UK respondents (70 per cent) said they do not plan to celebrate the event. However, of those who are planning to take part in some St. Patrick's Day fun, most will do so by going to a pub or restaurant. Chosen by 19 per cent of UK survey respondents, this was by far the most popular St. Patrick's Day activity, perhaps due to the beloved pub culture that's shared among both Brits and Irish alike. Many pubs across Britain serve green beer to add some extra flare to the St. Paddy's Day celebrations.

With green being the unofficial colour of St. Patrick's Day and of the Emerald Isle in general, you can expect that at least some Britons will wear something in that colour to celebrate the occasion. Indeed, 7 per cent of survey respondents said they plan to sport green come 17 March. This was the second most popular way of celebrating the holiday, as only 5 per cent said they'll attend a St. Paddy's Day party and only 3 per cent said they'll watch a parade.

Since St. Patrick's Day is a holiday so steeped in history and tradition, you might expect that it's more likely to be celebrated by the older generations. However, the online survey news also showed that younger respondents were more likely to celebrate the holiday. Only 57 per cent of those aged 16-34 in the UK said they don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, compared to 74 per cent of 35-45 year-olds and 82 per cent of those over 55. 

So, despite many Britons opting not to join in the St. Patrick's Day festivities, you can still expect a decent turnout in your local pub and you won't look at all out of place if you choose to wear something green. Though St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Britain may be slightly more subtle than in other countries, the holiday will always be associated with good times and conviviality.