St Patrick's Day
Celebrating the life of Ireland's patron saint
St Patrick’s Day falls on March 17, and celebrates the life of the patron saint of Ireland who reputedly brought Christianity to the country in the fifth century. Traditionally, it is not celebrated by the unionist community in Northern Ireland.
The organisation of St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Belfast has been contentious in recent years. Funding for a city centre parade has been refused by Belfast City Council as it is deemed not ‘cross-community’ in nature.
Although failing to achieve official funding, parades in central, north, south, east and west Belfast are organised by Féile an Phobail, raising money through sponsorship and door to door collection.
The St Patrick’s Day Heritage Association also organises events exploring St Patrick as a man and a myth, specifically aimed at the Protestant community and held in Orange Halls in Belfast and Armagh. The pubs in Belfast are invariably crowded with rowdy revellers.
St Patrick’s Day in Derry is sponsored by Derry City Council and the Department of Social Development. The celebrations feature a day of family entertainment with traditional and live music, cabaret, dancing, face painting, clowns, balloon modelling, and a country market fair. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
Down District Council takes charge of Northern Ireland’s biggest St Patrick’s Day cross-community carnival parade. This includes a spectacular cavalcade of floats, American cars, people in fancy dress, cheerleaders and bands.
The carnival seeks to encourage, support and reflect the rich diversity of tradition that exists in Co Down. Further festivities last all week long, featuring family entertainment and traditional music alongside religious reflection.