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Traffic was heavy around Piccadilly Circus today. But the congestion was not caused by cars or red double-deckers.

Instead, Regent Street was packed with thousands of Londoners, many of whom wearing green and Leprechaun hats.

From babies to grandpas, they came to join London’s “greenest” celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.

Dressed in their traditional county colours, all the Irish counties marched along the street in a one-hour parade. The air was filled with Irish tunes and the tapping sounds of Irish clog dancing.

This annual festival never fails to capture Londoners’ attention. One of the reasons is the high Irish population in the city.

Irish exodus

According to the 2001 census, the number of Irish minorities in London exceeds 220,000, while 77% of its total population claim they have Irish roots.

The Irish population in London has been recorded since medieval times. The number peaked in 1950’s, when Irish immigrants left their homeland and its poor economy for job opportunities in London.

However, the Celtic Tiger economy slowed down the population growth in 1995-2007. Based on the Office of National Statistics, the number of Irish minorities dropped from 3.2% in 2001 to 2.7% in 2007.

According to the economic statistics database of EconomyWatch.com, however, Ireland is among the worst economy. As a result, another wave of Irish immigration can be expected.

Green celebration

Despite the high Irish population, London did not see Saint Patrick’s Day Parade until eight years ago. It usually takes place around Trafalgar Square on weekends around March 17, the actual date of celebration.

This year, Londoners were greeted by a green procession of hundreds of Irish. It started from Piccadilly Circus and continued through Trafalgar Square before finishing off at Whitehall Palace.

Originally, Saint Patrick was associated with the colour blue, not green. However, he was said to use Ireland’s native shamrock, a green three-leaved plant, in explaining the holy trinity when preaching.

With the passing of time, people have linked the colour green to the celebration. They wear green clothes, eat green food and even drink green beer.

by Pichayada Promchertchoo

Dublin in London


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