DUBLIN — Never mind the fickle Irish weather. A chilly, damp Dublin is wrapping up warm for St. Patrick's Day.
An estimated half-million revelers were expected to brave snowflakes and sleet to line the capital's streets for the traditional holiday parade Sunday, a 3-kilometer (2-mile) jaunt through the city's heart involving performers from 46 countries.
Unusually, 8,000 tourists in town for the festivities were expected to lead this year's procession in a "people's parade." The gesture is connected to a year-long tourism promotion called The Gathering that is organizing hundreds of clan reunions nationwide.
Since 1997 Dublin has expanded St. Patrick's Day into a multi-day festival featuring special children's playgrounds, street amusement parks, concerts and walking tours. Irish President Michael D. Higgins is hosting a nationally televised TV show featuring many of Ireland's top artists and musicians, including Bono and Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney.
Most of Dublin's famous buildings are floodlit green at night — again part of a global campaign that turns iconic landmarks green, including the Pyramids of Giza, the leaning tower of Pisa, Niagara Falls, and the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio.
While Dublin is the favored destination for those seeking an authentic St. Patrick's celebration, practically the entire Irish government has traveled overseas to capitalize on a nationally unique marketing opportunity.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny marched in Saturday's biggest U.S. parade in New York. The government deputy leader, Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, caused diplomatic waves in Atlanta, Georgia, by snubbing the second-biggest American parade in nearby Savannah — because he didn't want to attend a dinner hosted by an Irish-American group that bans female attendance.
Seventeen other Irish ministers were seeking to boost trade, investment and tourism in other U.S. cities. All are badly needed in an Ireland suffering from 14 percent unemployment and a household-debt crisis connected to the country's crushed property market.
While Irish-America broadly marked the holiday a day early, the Irish diaspora in most of the rest of the world stuck to marking St. Patrick's Day on March 17 as usual.
About 30,000 spectators soaked up the sun as Sydney's Irish-Australians paraded through the city. Australia always marks St. Patrick's Day on a Sunday. After the event, partiers rallying at the city's Hyde Park saw 45 Irish men and women receive Australian citizenship, an increasingly common event as tens of thousands of Irish job-seekers have emigrated to Australia each year since the 2008 collapse of Ireland's credit-driven Celtic Tiger boom.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard joked that she would take on the title of "Taoiseach" for the day, the Irish Gaelic equivalent of "prime minister" and meaning "chief."
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