If he were alive today, St. Patrick would probably find it all a bit hard to believe. Ireland, the country where he's the patron saint, may be a relatively small place, but more than a million people are expected to take part in a whole host of celebratory events organised there in his honour this week. And that doesn't count all the millions of others across the planet who will be claiming Irish ancestry, donning green, and raising a glass to the fifth-century bishop.
The celebrations are already under way in all the towns and villages in Ireland; people are sporting the green high-crowned leprechaun's hats, and shamrocks - the three-leafed clover the Saint used to explain the mystery of the Trinity - have sprouted in the most unexpected places. There are generous helpings of Irish stew to be had, and plenty of good beer and whisky - after all, legend has it that it was St Patrick himself who taught the process of distillation to the Irish.
In Dublin, there's celebration on a grand scale in a wide variety of events during the St Patrick's Day Festival. After a packed weekend of family fun, the programme continues with puppets, art trail, guided tours, and dancing in the streets at the Festival Ceili - a contemporary outdoor celebration of traditional Irish dance - culminating in the grand parade on the day itself, the 17th, with an estimated 3,000 performers taking to the streets. The 3km route is expected to be lined by around 650,000 spectators and the pageant will be transmitted live on TV and the web.
But it isn't just the Irish capital that's taking to the streets. In Cork, with its rich maritime culture, the biggest parade in southern Ireland will take place under the theme Ships to Shore, while in Downpatrick, known as St Patrick's town and reputed to be the site of the Saint's burial, over fifty events have been organised for all the family, including concerts, exhibitions and sports events, once again with the highlight on Wednesday afternoon of a spectacular cavalcade of floats, bands and fancy dress.
It's not only Ireland that celebrates St Patrick's Day. Even if the bigger celebrations in London and the States may have been scheduled for the weekend, you're almost certain to find something going on on the 17th, whatever city or major you find yourself in. Just keep your eye out for an Irish pub and pop in and enjoy the craic.
Irish Tourist Office
St. Patrick's Festival