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St Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s most famous holiday, is now celebrated all over the world, with billions of dollars flowing through economies.

Every year on March 17, millions of people across the globe get together to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Originally meant to commemorate the death of the foremost patron saint of Ireland and the arrival of Christianity in the country, the day has grown to become one of the world’s biggest festive events, generating huge sums of revenue in the process.

Though it's one of the most important holidays across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the first St Patrick’s Day parade on record actually took place in New York City in 1762. The Big Apple still holds the biggest parade, now drawing in more than 2 million people to the party. Boston, known for its Irish heritage, comes second with 1 million attendees, while Chicago brings in similar figures around its famous green-coloured river (which uses an eco-friendly vegetable dye). Dublin draws 400,000 people to its city centre parade – small in absolute terms, but no small feat for a capital of about 600,000 inhabitants.

All in all, 62% of Americans, or roughly 207 million people, participate in the festivities, so it’s no wonder the celebration has a gigantic economic impact in the country. According to a National Retail Federation report in the U.S., a record US$7.2b will be spent in 2024 by Americans on green apparel, decorations, restaurant meals and drinks.

Meals and drinks probably make up the lion’s share of that, with a Nielsen report confirming St Patrick’s Day is the highest grossing day of the year for U.S. bars and restaurants. Just on March 17, more than 13 million pints of the world’s most famous stout, Guinness, owned by Diageo ($DEO), are sold globally. Tailwinds of beer sales likely spread in the U.S. to competitors like AB InBev ($BUD), Heineken ($HEINY) and Molson Coors ($TAP).

Tourism also gets a boost, as people flock to big gatherings. Ireland alone receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every St Patrick’s week, with Ryanair’s ($RYAAY) cheap flights potentially being a major drawcard for many European tourists.

But perhaps St Patrick’s biggest impact lies not in the economic boost from commemorating him, but in the expulsion of snakes from Ireland. The story goes that St Patrick banished the reptiles from the country in the fifth century. Non-believers might say the reason why the Emerald Isle is free of snakes is geographical, and not religious, as its link to Britain was cut before the reptiles could get to its land. In any case, not having to live under the threat of snakes (consider the U.S., where venomous reptile bites cost the healthcare system about US$900m annually) is probably worth raising a glass to.


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