St Patrick's Day: Ireland to celebrate national holiday with free online festival

Showcase of heritage to connect the 80 million people across the world with Irish descent

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Ireland's national holiday – St Patrick's Day – is known for its colourful parades through the world's cities, drawing millions of people.

The Irish diaspora from across the globe also return home to the Emerald Isle to celebrate with friends and family for the March 17 event.

The Covid-19 pandemic means much of that will not happen for a second year, but an online festival now aims to connect the 80 million people around the world of Irish descent.

The virtual celebration runs from Friday until Wednesday and will be broadcast on St Patrick's Festival TV – a free online channel accessible around the world.

It will feature more than 100 virtual events showcasing Irish music, theatre, art, poetry, storytelling, traditional arts, food, culture and much more.

The centrepiece will be a virtual St Patrick's Day parade where anyone can share their home parade with the world using social media hashtags.

Organisers say they want Irish people around the globe to “throw off the long, dark months and rise to embrace brighter days ahead”.

Ireland's pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai is inspired by the megalithic Newgrange tomb. Courtesy Embassy of Ireland in the UAE

Close to 10,000 Irish residents live in the UAE and many landmarks in the country will turn green for the day.

It is part of a longstanding worldwide campaign by Ireland's tourism chiefs to boost the country's profile.

UAE landmarks such as Dubai Frame, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club have turned green to mark the day.

Ireland will also have a major presence at Dubai Expo 2020 with a pavilion inspired by the country's megalithic Newgrange tomb.

Newgrange is older than the pyramids and Stonehenge and is known for a phenomenon during the winter solstice when sunlight shines through a lightbox and floods the inner chamber.

Ireland will also host a six-month programme of cultural, educational, sporting, business and other activities and events at Expo 2020.

"Ireland's story is an inspirational one and Expo 2020 is an opportunity to tell that story to a large, truly global audience," said Aidan Cronin, Ireland's ambassador to the UAE.

“Our pavilion will showcase Irish history, science, technology, business and culture. The re-creation of the Newgrange light box will be a highlight of our pavilion, when visitors will get a chance to experience one of the wonders of Irish innovation and creative thinking, dating back some 5,000 years.”

How Expo 2020 Dubai will look – in pictures