St Patrick’s day is celebrated on March 17, the date of his death. The day is celebrated by millions all over the world and has become one of the most popular cultural events worldwide.
So who was St Patrick? As he was a Patron Saint of Ireland his feast day was important in Ireland’s religious calendar. A popular belief is that he introduced Christianity to Ireland, banished snakes from our island, and used the 3 leaf Shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity. However, these are actually untrue and can be simply classed as Irish folklore.
Typical Traditions & Customs of St Patrick’s Day
There are a number of traditions to consider that are associated with St Patrick’s Day. Some are associated with religious traditions, others relate to people celebrating being Irish for the day, even for those who have no connections with Ireland.
The wearing of the green on St Patrick’s Day
Many people wear something green on St Patrick ’s Day. This is known by many as the wearing of the green to celebrate their Irish heritage.
In Ireland, people wear a small bunch of Shamrocks on their right breast rather than wear green clothing to signify their Irishness and its traditional connection with St Patrick. The Shamrocks are blessed at Church ceremonies all over Ireland by either the local Priests or Bishops, this is known as Blessing of the Shamrock.
As the popularity of St Patrick’s Day grew in the United States so did the tradition of wearing something green. From green hats to shamrock sunglasses everyone today celebrates the Irish culture by wearing something green.
Holy day of obligation
Most, if not all, practicing Christians in Ireland will attend Church on St Patrick’s Day as its a Holy Day of Obligation. Families would dress in their best clothing, with Shamrocks pinned on their breast, and attend Church together.
After attending mass families would return home and sit down to a large roast dinner. It would mostly consist of meat & veg served along with roast and mashed potatoes.
Families would often sit down in front of the television to watch the large St Patrick’s Day parades around the world.
The drinking of green beer
You would be hard pushed to find a pub in Ireland that served green beer as you would in the U.S. Some places in Ireland, such as Dublin, may have a few pubs that will serve green beer but for the most part, it’s not something we generally do.
Did you know that pubs in Ireland had to remain shut for St Patrick’s Day? It wasn’t until the late 1970’s the Irish law permitted pubs to open their doors on March 17th.
A day of parades & festivals
Thanks to our cousins in the United States the first St Patrick’s Day parade occurred in New York City during 1766. Today parades for St Patricks Day are held all over the world inviting millions of people to celebrate being Irish for a day.
Did you know that it wasn’t until 1995 when the Irish government decided to start holding a parade in Dublin, to help boost tourism? It’s now known in Ireland as St Patrick’s festival which takes place over 5 days with events including art shows, plays, concerts, funfairs, and the main parade.
Legends of St Patrick
There are many legends that surround the Patron Saint of Ireland. Stories such as St Patrick and the Devil, St Patrick and the Killer Snake and also St Patrick and the River Shannon Serpent still remain popular today.
Last updated August 7, 2019.