Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day, known as “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” in Irish, is a global celebration held on March 17th, commemorating Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. The festival marks the death date of Saint Patrick and has evolved from a religious observance into a variety of festivals across the world celebrating Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, and a lot of green attire. Initially a Christian feast day in the early 17th century, it has become a public holiday in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Montserrat. Additionally, it is widely celebrated in countries with significant Irish diaspora, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. The day is characterized by the attendance of church services, the wearing of green attire or shamrocks, and public parades and festivals. Restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which has encouraged the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption.

Key Traditions of Saint Patrick’s Day

Wearing of Green and Shamrocks

On Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s traditional to wear green clothing, accessories, or shamrocks. This custom comes from the legend that Saint Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. Green has been associated with Ireland since the 11th century, symbolizing spring and the shamrock.

Public Parades and Festivals

Originating in North America in the 18th century before spreading to Ireland in the 20th century, Saint Patrick’s Day parades and festivals are now common worldwide. These celebrations include marching bands, cultural organizations, and Irish traditional music sessions, reflecting the global influence of Irish culture.

Global Greening Initiative

Since 2010, landmarks around the world light up in green on Saint Patrick’s Day as part of the “Global Greening Initiative” by Tourism Ireland. This tradition started with the Sydney Opera House and the Sky Tower in Auckland and now includes over 300 landmarks in fifty countries.

Irish Language Week (Seachtain na Gaeilge)

From March 1st to Saint Patrick’s Day, Ireland celebrates Irish Language Week, promoting the use of the Irish language. This period is marked by increased efforts to use Irish in public events and media.

Drinking Alcohol

The Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, making drinking a central part of the celebrations. This includes consuming Irish whiskey, beer, or cider, with stout being particularly popular in Ireland.

Attending Church Services

Many Christians attend church services on Saint Patrick’s Day to honor the patron saint of Ireland. This religious observance pays tribute to Saint Patrick’s contribution to bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Drowning the Shamrock

This custom involves placing a shamrock in the bottom of a cup, which is then filled with whiskey, beer, or cider before making a toast. It’s either swallowed with the drink or tossed over the shoulder for good luck.

Official Visits by Irish Government Ministers

Around Saint Patrick’s Day, Irish government ministers travel abroad on official visits to promote Ireland and its culture, strengthening international relations and celebrating Irish heritage globally.

Best Movies Set During Saint Patrick’s Day

The Fugitive (1993)

Directed by Andrew Davis and starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, this thriller features a key scene during a Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago, showcasing the city’s vibrant celebration.

Leprechaun (1993)

A horror-comedy film directed by Mark Jones, featuring Warwick Davis as the malevolent leprechaun. Though not directly about the celebration, its thematic elements tie into Irish folklore, which is celebrated during Saint Patrick’s Day.

The Boondock Saints (1999)

Directed by Troy Duffy and starring Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus as two Irish-American brothers who become vigilantes. The movie has become a cult classic, especially celebrated by some on Saint Patrick’s Day for its Irish themes.

Most Important Works of Literature About Saint Patrick’s Day

“Dubliners” (1914) by James Joyce

While not solely about Saint Patrick’s Day, this collection of short stories captures the spirit of Irish life and includes references to Irish culture and festivities that can be associated with the celebration.

“Angela’s Ashes” (1996) by Frank McCourt

This memoir of an Irish family doesn’t center specifically on Saint Patrick’s Day but offers a profound insight into Irish culture, history, and celebrations through the lens of McCourt’s childhood in Limerick.

“Round Ireland with a Fridge” (1997) by Tony Hawks

A humorous travelogue by Tony Hawks, not directly about Saint Patrick’s Day but deeply embedded in Irish culture and humor, reflecting the spirit of joy and camaraderie found in Irish celebrations.

Best Music About Saint Patrick’s Day

“The Wild Rover”

A classic Irish folk song often sung during Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, known for its chorus and themes of drinking and revelry.

“Danny Boy”

While not explicitly about Saint Patrick’s Day, this ballad is a beloved song in Irish culture, often performed during the holiday’s celebrations to evoke feelings of Irish pride and nostalgia.

“Whiskey in the Jar”

Another traditional Irish song that has been covered by numerous artists. Its themes of adventure and misfortune resonate with the festive and buoyant spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day.

“Saint Patrick’s Day” by John Mayer

A song from Mayer’s album “Room for Squares” (2001), capturing feelings of love and longing during the month of March, and indirectly evoking the ambiance of Saint Patrick’s Day.

Best Cakes, Cookies, and Sweets for Saint Patrick’s Day

Irish Soda Bread

Traditionally not a sweet, Irish soda bread becomes a favored treat when made with added sugar, butter, and raisins. It’s a staple during Saint Patrick’s Day, embodying the spirit of Irish cuisine.

Shamrock Cookies

Shamrock-shaped cookies decorated with green icing are popular during Saint Patrick’s Day. They celebrate Irish culture and the legend of Saint Patrick using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.

Baileys Cheesecake

A rich, creamy cheesecake flavored with Baileys Irish Cream, making it a perfect dessert for Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. It combines the festive spirit with Ireland’s famous liquor.

Best Food for Saint Patrick’s Day

Corned Beef and Cabbage

A dish particularly popular in the United States as a Saint Patrick’s Day meal, corned beef and cabbage has become synonymous with the holiday, reflecting the Irish-American culture.

Irish Stew

A traditional dish made with lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, and parsley. Irish stew is a hearty meal that’s commonly enjoyed on Saint Patrick’s Day, showcasing traditional Irish cooking.


A traditional Irish dish made from mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage, mixed with butter, salt, and pepper. It’s a comforting, hearty food often served during Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.

Other Relevant Tips for Observance

Plan a Green Outfit

Embrace the tradition by wearing green or accessorizing with shamrocks to show your participation in the festivities. This can range from a full outfit to subtle green accents.

Enjoy Irish Music and Dance

Attend local events featuring Irish music and dance, or organize a small gathering to enjoy traditional Irish tunes and perhaps learn a few dance steps.

Cook Traditional Irish Food

Celebrate by preparing traditional Irish dishes such as corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, or soda bread, bringing a taste of Ireland to your home.

Learn About Irish History and Culture

Saint Patrick’s Day is a great opportunity to explore Irish history and culture, including the story of Saint Patrick, the significance of the shamrock, and the impact of the Irish diaspora around the world.

Participate in Local Parades

If possible, attend a Saint Patrick’s Day parade. These events are a vibrant expression of Irish culture, featuring music, dancing, and community spirit.

Practice Responsible Drinking

If you choose to partake in the traditional drinking aspect of the celebration, do so responsibly, keeping in mind the spirit of community and celebration that the day represents.

Featured image: Wikimedia

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