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NSW: Sydney streets a sea of green for St Patrick's Day parade

15 Mar 2009 1:41 PM

SYDNEY, March 15 AAP - Shamrocks, Guinness and Irish dancing can only mean one thing - St Patrick's Day.

The feast day for Ireland's patron saint is on Tuesday but celebrations began on Sunday with with thousands of people lining the streets of Sydney's CBD to watch the annual parade.

Irish dancers, baton twirlers and bagpipe players joined Irish men and women dressed proudly in green.

Many floats displayed giant cardboard kegs of Guinness, the thick Irish stout.

Some spectators wore shamrock-shaped hats, green clothes and waved Irish flags.

Organisers say the Sydney parade is one of the biggest St Patrick's Day celebrations in the world.

Margaret McCabe, originally from Ireland, is visiting relatives in Sydney and couldn't miss out on seeing the parade.

"It's very important to us ... it's part of our culture, we like to keep up the tradition," she told AAP on Sunday.

Ms McCabe, who now lives in Birmingham, England, said St Patrick's Day is traditionally celebrated in both churches and pubs.

"In Ireland, it's a church holiday, we go to mass ... if it's pouring rain we would have to go to the pub," she said.

Family activities, including Gaelic football lessons and Irish music workshops will be held in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon.