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What is Saint Patrick’s day?

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What is Saint Patrick's day?

What is Saint Patrick’s day?

Feast day of Saint Patrick also popularly known as Saint Patrick’s day is held on 17 March every year to commemorate the death date of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Unless you have been living under the Blarney Stone, you surely have heard of Saint Patrick’s day or you have attended a Saint Patrick’s day party, parade or festival.

Significance and Celebrations

The religious significance of the Feast day of Saint Patrick is commemoration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.

In Ireland, you might find that the locals have a slightly different way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than their friends in other countries.

Saint Patrick’s Day in Rural Ireland

In rural Ireland you will find that St Patrick’s Day is much more likely to be celebrated in traditional style. In places like Aran Island or other Irish speaking areas people celebrate with traditional music, sean nós singing and Irish dancing, horse racing and GAA matches.

Modern Celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland

You might be surprised to hear how big a role live sport plays in modern Irish St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Every year, on March 17th, the finals of the All Ireland Club Championships for hurling, camogie and gaelic football are hosted to capacity crowds in Croke Park, Dublin. These large crowds travel to Dublin for these games and it is broadcasted to millions around the country watching at home.

Even the Rugby Union 6 nations have been included in recent years. The 6 Nations, currently appropriately sponsored by Guinness are a rugby tournament featuring Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy, runs for approximately 6 weeks and usually ends around March 17th.

Of course there are also parties and parades.

St Patrick’s Day Parades in Ireland

It will not come as a surprise that the whole of Ireland in every corner of the country will be bursting with St Patrick’s Day activities every year. 

In Belfast the big day is usually  celebrated around City Hall and Custom House Square. The day will feature a St Patrick’s Day parade, Irish dancing and traditional Irish music sessions throughout the many lively pubs and bars.

In the capital, Dubliners go a step further by having a 5-day mega celebration to commemorate Saint Patrick. Dublin goes emerald green between the 15th and 19th. There is a large parade in the city, a road race for the active minded and the accompanying live music, dancing and general party celebrations.

Along the Wild Atlantic Way, Galway residents will celebrate with  a Patrick’s Day parade which now stretches back over a century.

Other places like Cork as a well as smaller towns and villages will all host their own celebrations in honor of St Patrick!

Worldwide Celebration

It was largely thanks to emigrants, particularly to the United States, who transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday of revelry and celebration of things Irish.

American cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants started having celebrations which included elaborate parades. Boston organized its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737 which was a pretty small affair at the time. In 1762, 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held. in New York City. Chicago also joined the party and since 1962 Chicago has coloured its river green to mark the occasion.

Irish and non-Irish alike commonly participate in the “wearing of the green” which is sporting an item of green clothing or a shamrock. A meal of  Corned beef and cabbage is associated with the holiday, and even beer is sometimes dyed green to celebrate the day.

Many of these practices were adopted by the Irish largely to the benefit of tourists.

What about the obsession with heavy drinking on St. Patrick’s Day? Believe it or not, this is not firmly rooted in Irish tradition but is more of a modern American phenomenon.

When they first came to America, the Irish were rejected and despised. These days everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Erin go Bragh!” 

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Last updated May 29, 2023


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