St Patrick’s Day Celebrations & Traditions

People celebrating St Patrick's Day in Dublin

St Patrick’s day is celebrated on March 17, the date of his death. Celebrated by millions all over the world it has become one of the most popular worldwide cultural events.

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 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 are in fact part of 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 of their outer clothing. The Shamrocks are blessed in ceremonies all over Ireland by either the local Priests or Bishops. This is known as the 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 the wearing of the 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 it wasn’t until 1995 when the Irish government decided to start holding a parade in Dublin? It’s known as St Patrick’s Festival in Ireland and takes place over 5 days. Events include art shows, plays, concerts, funfairs, and the main parades.

Legends of St Patrick

There are many legends that surround the Patron Saint of Ireland. Stories such as St Patrick and the DevilSt Patrick and the Killer Snake and also St Patrick and the River Shannon Serpent still remain popular today.

Last updated March 3, 2020.

About the Author

Serena Ó Longáin
Serena is a cat lover and writer, in that order.