The Irish city of Dublin is all set to host the country's largest annual festival - St Patrick's Festival. The first such festival was held over a day and a night, on 17 March 1996 and it has since not only become an Irish tradition but also one that is universally associated with the spirit and culture of Ireland.

St Patrick's Day celebrates all that is quintessentially "Irish" and the heritage the country. It is observed not only by those in Ireland but also those Irish living abroad, as well as people of other nationalities and religious persuasions.

At a more pragmatic level, the celebrations, which over the years have reached massive proportions, also provide a much-needed boost to tourism within the country.

While we wait eagerly for the 2012 festival to kick off, check out some photos of the previous years' celebrations...