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 the Patron Saint of Ireland his feast day was important in Ireland’s religious calendar. 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 when 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 that has become 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 popularity of St Patrick’s Day grew in the United States so did the tradition of wearing something green. From green hats to shamrock sun glasses 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 which includes a selection of meat and vegetables served along with roast and mashed potatoes. Alcohol was rarely consumed on this important day and it wasn’t until the 1970’s when pubs were allowed to open by law.
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
In Ireland you would be hard pushed to find a pub that served green beer and actual fact this is not a typical tradition of Ireland but is that of the U.S. & Canada. 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 and today parades 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, fun fairs and the main parade.
First published on November 15, 2012 and last modified on March 16, 2018.