The parade where everyone is welcome

Copenhagen’s annual St Patrick’s Day parade has washed away the winter gloom with a welcome dose of Irish entertainment since 2005. This year is no exception

With its famed proclamation, “everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day!” Copenhagen’s annual parade has proven for years that this holiday truly isn’t just a day for the Irish: it’s for everyone. Every year since 2005, a multitude of nationalities have marched through the streets of the city on March 17 to celebrate the coming of spring under a banner of green.

But the St Patrick’s Day celebrations around Copenhagen haven’t always been out in the streets, points out Marianne Green, one of the parade’s founders and organisers. Green explained that the idea for the parade sprouted out of a desire to make the festivities more accessible for people of all ages.

“St Patrick’s Day was always celebrated in the different Irish pubs in Copenhagen,” Green told The Copenhagen Post. “But we felt that this left a lot of people out of the opportunity to share in the celebrations, particularly families and people outside the Irish community and pub scene. We wanted to start a parade in Copenhagen to bring people together and to open up the world of Irish culture to new people.”

Holding a parade meant that the holiday celebrations would now include those who might be a bit too young to hit the pubs and throw back a few pints. In an effort to make the event even more accessible for all ages, the organisers have revamped the parade’s additional festivities as well. While the day used to end with an after-party, the celebrations now take place during a warm-up afternoon at Rådhuspladsen before the parade starts.

As Green pointed out, the parade’s main aim is to bring out the Irish spirit in everyone, regardless of culture, background or age.

“The event is meant to be a framework in which anyone with an interest in or curiosity for anything Irish can come together as participants, volunteers, audience members or even performers,” she said.

It’s precisely this laid-back, multicultural flavour that Sarah Cox, one of last year’s attendees, particularly appreciated.  Cox’s daughter dances with the Dark Green School of Irish Dancing, which will be performing throughout the day – and for Cox, the pre-parade festivities like those are often the highlight of the day.

“For me, the best part is watching my daughter dance onstage,” she explained. “The Irish music gets everybody’s feet tapping. Although the Guinness and Irish coffee probably help too!”

“It’s a happy, inclusive event,” Cox went on. “Little kids do their own little-kid jigs and reels, while the adults enjoy – or not – the Irish jokes.”

This year’s programme kicks off at 15:30 at Rådhuspladsen, and while the festivities will last all afternoon, visitors can drop by anytime in the afternoon for as long as they please. As in previous years, the event isn’t simply made up of floats or professionals, but of people like you.

For those interested in participating but who don’t have a wardrobe of green hats or face decals, a parade tent set up at Rådhuspladsen will have everything you need. Visitors can stop by from 13:00 to stock up on accessories and adornments. While the drinks used to be saved for the post-parade party, there’s no need to hold off until later this year: adults can prep for the parade with an Irish coffee or a Guinness (likely only the first of the day) while the kids enjoy professional face painting until the entertainment commences.

Three separate musical performances will take the stage this year, including the Dark Green School, which often performs original works based on Irish myths and legends and have been a staple of the parade’s pre-programme for several years. Alongside them will be the professional Irish dance group Green Steps. Copenhagen will also be paid a visit directly from Ireland by world-renowned accordionist Josephine Marsh and violinist Yvonne Casey, who will play alongside Copenhagen-based singer-guitarist Seamus Cahill.

Following the musical performances, the Irish ambassador, Brendan Scannell, will officially open the parade with a greeting from the stage at 16:50. From there, the parade departs from Rådhuspladsen at 17:00, led by St Patrick himself – played this year by actor Ian Burns. For those who missed the performance from the Dark Green School earlier in the afternoon, fear not: they’ll be performing again during the parade. Also making appearances will be a group of Irish wolfhounds – the world’s tallest dog breed – and the pipe band Gordon Pipes and Drums, bringing a bit of Scottish flavour to the day.

Noreen Thygesen of Ireland particularly enjoyed the Scottish pipes last year. Thygesen has attended the parade for the past six years and felt that the Gordon Pipes and Drums added to the international atmosphere at the parade.

“Last year was great as we had a bit more Celtic feeling with the Scottish pipes – but I just enjoy the atmosphere,” Thygesen said. “It is fantastic to chat and tell stories from home, where the auld blarney, the craic and the wit just flows.”

“People on the street and in buses, cars and even the restaurants were waving out of windows and soaking it up,” she went on. “In true Irish spirit, they decided to give everyone walking outside a wave anyway.”

And as Cox explained, this kind of spirit is hard to ignore on St Patrick’s Day.

“The Irish know a thing or two about music, dancing, singing and fortified coffee,” she said. “They know how to have a good laugh. It’s infectious.”

And as the parade’s organisers will have you remember, everyone is privy to that Irish spirit on St Patrick’s Day. Whether it’s the music, the costumes or even the Guinness, you’re guaranteed to find something to enjoy at this year’s parade.

Going Green

For Gregg Clayton, an American based in Sweden, the laid-back, multicultural flavour of the day was particularly enjoyable. Clayton travelled to Copenhagen specifically to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and partake in the parade, and especially appreciated the relaxed nature of everyone involved.

"Last year was my first time to attend a parade outside of the US. I have a costume that I made about seven years ago of a leprechaun named ‘Lucky’, copied from the children’s cereal Lucky Charms.

I was very impressed by how accepted I was by the Danish and how friendly everyone was to me. The most fun was out in the crowd before the parade, having my picture taken with many different people. The Danes love to party and have fun.

People of all age groups, families and children were there, too. I was teased by a little boy the whole day there. He would sneak up behind me and hit me and run off – I only caught a glimpse of him once!

The parade was put together and organised very well and is a good chance to travel across the bridge, let your hair down and go green!"

St Patrick’s Day Parade

Rådhuspladsen, Cph K; Sun, 13:00-17:45;;,

13:00: Tent opens at Rådhuspladsen with drinks and accessories
15:30: Onstage entertainment begins
17:00: Parade begins to leave Rådhuspladsen
17:45: Parade arrives back at Rådhuspladsen

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