St Patrick’s Day: Where to celebrate in Switzerland
Although St Patrick’s Day is only an official holiday in a few countries, it is readily celebrated worldwide with copious amounts of alcohol and lots of green. Here are some ways to celebrate this unique holiday in Switzerland.
St Patrick’s Day: A brief history
St Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, has a rich history dating back to the fifth century and is now commemorated on March 17 all around the world, by both Irish and non-Irish communities.
The cultural and religious holiday serves to honour Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century, but was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He spent six years working as a shepherd there before fleeing back, where he studied to become a priest.
He eventually returned to Ireland as a bishop, and he spent many years converting thousands of pagan Irish people to Christianity. He died on March 17 and was buried in Downpatrick. In the following years, many legends grew about Saint Patrick and he has since become the most renowned saint of Ireland.
Celebrations in Ireland
St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland with public parades and festivals, along with traditional Irish music. Drinking alcohol is another important aspect of the holiday, particularly Irish whisky, beer, or cider. This includes the tradition of “drowning the shamrock”, where a shamrock is placed at the bottom of the glass that is then filled with alcohol, and promptly drunk as a toast to Saint Patrick. The shamrock can be swallowed with the drink or tossed over the shoulder as a token of good luck.
Aside from alcohol, the colour green is commonly associated with the holiday. This custom comes from the story that Saint Patrick was said to have used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. Additionally, many depictions of Saint Patrick see him carrying a sprig of shamrocks along with a cross.
The colour green has been associated with Ireland since 1640, when a green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Thus, green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn at St Patrick’s Day celebrations since the 1680s. The tradition is honoured even today with lots of people celebrating by donning green clothing and wearing green face paint with the repeated motif of the shamrock.
St Patrick’s Day 2023
It’s almost time for St Patrick’s Day in 2023! While St Patrick’s Day is only a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat, it is celebrated around the world.
When is St Patrick’s Day?
St Patrick’s Day takes place annually on March 17, but many festivities take place on the weekend before or after - especially as the day is not an official holiday in many of the countries where it is celebrated - or can even last the entire week.
Where to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the many countries that have a plethora of St Patrick’s Day festivities: think pubs, Guinness, and a sea of green!
St Patrick’s Day Zurich
Zurich in particular puts on a wide range of events for the holiday. This is partly due to the city's association with James Joyce, a famous Irish author who lived and worked in Zurich. The author of Ulysses has left quite a legacy in the many Irish pubs in Zurich, with one even named after him. There are many bars and pubs in the city that celebrate St Patrick’s Day with parties and smaller parades throughout the city.
Although Zurich has the most prominent festivities, other Swiss cities also have their own traditions. In Basel, the Basel Irish Club celebrates St Patrick’s Day by poring over famous Irish literary works, and then concluding the evening with a bash with Irish music. In Wil, plenty of pubs put on events for the holiday, while in Rorschach there is a live music performance from famous Irish punk bands.
Another great place to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Switzerland is Sursee, a region near Lucerne. The party takes place in the Temple Bar District with authentic Irish food, Guinness on tap, and live music. Enjoy the ambience of the Irish holiday with the stunning views of the Swiss lake.
The Greening of the Rhine Falls
However, arguably the most unique Swiss tradition that has been used to mark St Patrick's Day was at the Rhine Falls, which during several years in the 2010s was dyed green to commemorate the event. Although no longer running today, the scenes were truly spectacular!
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Whether you’re in Ireland or in Switzerland, there are many ways to celebrate the fun holiday. Make sure to wear green and grab a pint!