Without a doubt, one of Australia’s most colourful ‘event’ days is St Patrick’s Day – this year falling (as always) on March 17.
Whilst not officially recognised as a holiday in this country, it is nonetheless a day of huge celebration for more than 10 percent of Australians who identify as having full Irish ancestry.
Some of the following figures may surprise you, but well over two million Aussies have self-declared their Irish heritage, third behind only English and Australian in terms of groups locally identifying themselves as originating from the one background.
An amazing 30 percent of Australians have partial Irish ancestry, with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth being the most significant hubs where the Irish reside.
As its name implies, St Patrick’s Day was originally dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick, who passed away on March 17 in the fifth century.
According to britannica.com, St Patrick was a fifth century missionary to Ireland, later serving as a bishop there and credited with bringing Christianity to parts of Ireland.
He was an inspirational figure who had a huge influence on Ireland’s history, despite being kidnapped at the age of 16 and being forced to work for six years as a herdsman, before escaping his captors and heading to England.
Although venerated as a saint in Ireland from the seventh century, he wasn’t formally canonised until the 1630’s, when the date of his death (March 17) was added to the Catholic book of prayers as the Feast Day of St Patrick.
As time has marched on, St Patrick’s Day has become not only Ireland’s national day but also a date on the calendar of immense celebration for all those of Irish extraction, regardless of wherever they may be domiciled across the globe.
First held in 1762, the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City is the biggest of its type in the world, attracting over two million people annually.
Sydney hosts one of the top ten St Patrick’s Day parades on the planet, and every year spectacular footage is streamed throughout the world as our famous Opera House appears to turn green, courtesy of laser lighting effects.
Of course, green is Ireland’s national colour, the colour of the shamrock and these days, both the colour green and shamrocks are considered good luck by many, many people – not just those of Irish extraction.
The first Irish settlers arrived in Australia in the early 1800’s, and Sydney’s first St Patrick’s Day parade was held shortly after.
These days, many pubs and clubs - both in the city and the suburbs - hold special St Patrick’s Day promotions and lunches, featuring Irish music and dancing, Irish-themed menus and competitions for the best dressed.
The preferred alcoholic drink of the Irish is Guinness, which will be flowing freely from the taps at many pubs in Sydney this St Patrick’s Day, and for added effect, some publicans even add green colouring to this usually darkish liquid for this day only.
The most celebrated modern day (still living) Irish personalities are mainly from the entertainment and sporting spheres and include controversial fighter Conor McGregor, famous football player and now manager Roy Keane and singers Bono, Ed Sheeran and Sinead O’Connor.
Melbourne-based Irish jockey John Allen has ridden 13 Group 1 winners since settling in Australia just on a decade ago, with his mounts earning over $50 million in prizemoney according to racing.com
The Irish have had a major influence on the community in the many countries where they have settled, excelling in many fields – from politics to religion, architecture, music, sport and literature.
Indeed, two of the greatest writers of all time, namely James Joyce and Oscar Wilde, were both Irish.
The Irish are great sports, known worldwide for their good sense of humour so it’s quite ironic that for many, many years (prior to these politically correct times, of course!), they bore the brunt of Irish jokes.
Not surprisingly with its far more agreeable climate, Australia is an extremely popular holiday destination for the Irish, many of whom visit our shores for working holidays.
And as Australia – and the world - gradually returns to some kind of normality following these crazy past two ‘COVID years’, hopefully our Irish friends will again be returning to our shores in huge numbers soon.
Yes I Can Renovations is New South Wales fastest growing and most innovative building company, specialising in quality bathroom, kitchen and full home renovations in Greater Sydney.
We wish all of our past, present and potential customers of Irish backgrounds a very “Happy St Patrick’s Day”, a greeting we also extend to the many Irish tradies currently working in and around Sydney, along with any other Irish folk reading this article.
And please remember, as the saying goes (to be sure, to be sure)……
“At Yes I Can, if we can’t do it, no one can!!”