It’s common knowledge that Australians know how to throw a party, but how do they compare with the Irish?
Australia has a huge population of Irish residents – the country is now the third most popular destination for Irish citizens to move to, after the UK and the US. With such a large population living in Australia, Irish residents have developed a strong community. There are plenty of Irish bars, markets and Sydney even publishes a newspaper named the Irish Echo.
Luke O’Neill, editor of the Irish Echo, told the Guardian in a 2013 interview that Ireland is the third biggest provider of 457 visa applicants in Australia, which is an incredible statistic. While most of the Irish residents travel over to stay on a temporary visa, many of them fall in love with the place and apply for extended working visas and even full residency.
It is therefore not surprising to find that while St Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest events in the Irish calendar, the festivities are also celebrated vociferously in Australia.
So what can you expect when you spend St Patrick’s Day in Australia?
The Sydney St Patrick’s Day parade
Want a party that truly rivals those on the Emerald Isle itself? As the fourth largest St Patrick’s Day party in the world (after Dublin, New York and Boston), and with 80,000 patriotic people attending, you should expect great things from Sydney’s colourful parade. The event is the only one of its kind that is fully organised and funded by the Irish community and government, so you know it will have a high level of authenticity. The day aims to showcase the best of the Irish-Australian culture, with a variety of live music, a children’s area, citizenship ceremony, traditional Irish food and various community groups.
The festivities will take place in the heart of the vibrant city of Sydney, on Sunday15th March. The atmosphere is always electric and demonstrates a true community spirit, as everyone excitedly dances, laughs and sings throughout. Every year the parade has a different theme, people are encouraged to dress up and look the part and, if previous years are anything to go by, attendees really go the extra mile with their costumes. This year’s theme is “celebrating life”, which refers to many of the big commemorations that will take place during 2015, such as the ANZAC Centenary and Yeats 2015, although you can choose to interpret the theme however you like. While the parade begins at midday, you can expect the festivities to continue throughout the night in true Irish style.
Melbourne Irish Festival
The Melbourne Irish Festival is an annual event celebrating Irish heritage and culture. Just like Sydney, Melbourne has a sizeable Irish community, so this also has the potential to be a wonderful occasion. The whole day is bursting with family-friendly activities, such as Irish dancing, music, street performers, face painting and traditional food vendors. Also taking place on 15th March, visitors to the Melbourne Irish Festival will be entertained by a Van Morrison tribute act.
What about Western Australia?
Plenty of Irish migrants have set up a new home in Western Australia, with Perth being a particular stronghold for former natives of the Emerald Isle. As such, there will be no shortage of events to mark St Patrick’s Day in this part of the country.
The celebrations run from 8th to the 17th March, with the St Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday the 15th being one of the main highlights. The parade starts at Water Corporation Car Park and ends at the Leederville Oval, where lots of entertainment has been organised.
Visit the Irish markets
The hustle and bustle of a traditional market perfectly represents the animated atmosphere of the Irish community.
The Sydney markets have a long past, with two main sites in Haymarket and Flemington dating back to 1870. Hundreds of Irish migrants set up the open-air markets, which quickly became a vital part of life in the community, selling everything from baked goods and handcrafted items, to livestock and clothing, as well as amusements such as merry-go-rounds. Nowadays, the two markets sell more traditional items. The larger market at Flemington is more of a farmers’ market with fruit, fresh meat and flowers, while Haymarket offers a mix of souvenirs, clothing and electronics. Either way, you are sure to find a real slice of Irish spirit in both markets.
Enjoy the festivities in a traditional Irish pub
It wouldn’t be a true St Patrick’s Day celebration without drinking a pint of Guinness now would it? We couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy the dark ale and soak up the festivities than in a traditional Irish-style pub.
There are a multitude of Irish-themed pubs and hotels scattered across Australia, so it goes without saying that St Patrick’s Day is taken very seriously. Expect to find a friendly atmosphere and a lot of Guinness on the menu, you can even sample a traditional Guinness-flavoured pie, but if you are hoping for something a little more hearty, you can of course take advantage of the traditional Irish comfort food menu.
Dress up in green
If you’re in Australia for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, you’d better have a green outfit lined up!
Over the course of the day the country is transformed into a sea of greenery, with green banners and decorations, to green face paint and clothing and even green drinks and desserts. Don’t be surprised if you find green water pouring from Sydney’s fountains. Just make sure that you dress the part, you don’t want to be the only one out of 80,000 wearing red.
Whatever part of the world you are from, celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Australia is guaranteed to be a fantastic occasion that you’ll never forget.