More than half a million people packed Dublin city centre today as the annual St Patrick’s Day parade got under way.
Every man, woman and child – whether from Tralee or Timbuktu – could call themselves Irish for the day as they soaked up the sights and sounds of the nation’s favourite holiday.
“What other country can bring people from all around the world to celebrate its own culture?” said Stephanie Reimer, from Canada.
She and a group of friends, dressed from head to toe in green, had the best view of the two-hour parade where it snaked across the River Liffey on the O’Connell Bridge.
“What I love about St Patrick’s Day is that it’s an inclusive celebration that invites absolutely everyone and allows us all to be Irish for a little while,” she added.
The parade set off from Parnell Square, along O’Connell Street, past Trinity College and concluded at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
To mark Dublin’s year as the City of Science, the parade theme was How? What? Why?
Street performers and theatre companies gave extravagant displays of colour and dance, portraying different scientific concepts from questions posed by Irish schoolchildren.
One troupe had dancers dressed as raindrops and different colours, as it tried to illustrate how a rainbow is made.
Meanwhile, another group, which answered the question of why we dream, danced behind a giant nightmarish dragon, a metallic rhinoceros and 20ft (6m) tall flowers.
Dublin man Rory Larkin said it is the colours, sounds and electric atmosphere that attract him and his family each year.
“It makes you proud to be Irish,” said Mr Larkin, with a tricolour-painted face and his hair dyed green.
“No matter what kind of rubbish we’ve got going on in politics and the economy, no matter how gloomy it all seems, this is something to be proud of and to know that the world is watching us today.”
The city centre was a melting pot of nationalities, with visitors travelling from as far as Japan to experience the world’s most significant St Patrick’s Day bash.
Renata Janusauskaite, from Lithuania, has lived in Dublin for eight years. She said this was her favourite so far.
“The economy isn’t doing very well and there is so much unemployment, yet to look at all these people in the crowds, they won’t let that get them down,” said Ms Janusauskaite.
“That’s what I think it means to be Irish. And I think we all deserve a big celebration.”
Marching bands from Ireland, the UK, Russia and the US kept the crowds on their toes with rousing renditions of songs like It’s A Long Way To Tipperary“.
Among them was a band from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, which is home to the Fighting Irish football team.
The team is due to play a match against the Naval Academy at the Aviva Stadium in September, and is expected to bring some 30,000 football fans with it from the States.
The Dublin Fire Brigade Band, Garda Band and Garda Dog Unit also took part in the spectacle, and were followed by an array of performers on stilts, bicycles and skates, throwing batons and breathing fire.
Following the parade, thousands of revellers piled into Dublin’s famed traditional pubs to get ready for the Ireland versus England rugby match.
It was a big day for Irish sport as Croke Park played host to the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final.
But Dublin was not the only place to go green for Ireland’s patron saint.
Belfast held its own St Patrick’s Day Festival in the city centre, with a parade, carnival and free open-air rock concert.
And thousands of proud citizens all over the Emerald Isle took part in their own parades and parties – from Wexford to Cork and Donegal to Derry.