A Brief History of St. Patrick's Day Celebrations

Authored By:

CIEE Dublin

March is arriving and you know what that means! St. Patrick's Day is coming up soon!
As the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick’s Day is commemorated with great celebration throughout Ireland. Lá Fhéile Pádraig (the Day of the Festival of Patrick) is celebrated on the 17th of March every year on what scholars believe was St. Patrick’s death date. 

As a public holiday in Ireland, the Irish celebrate their day off with lots of traditional Irish music, parades, and of course, wearing lots of green! More effort is made to use the Irish language during Seachtain na Gaeilge, which usually takes place during Paddy’s week. (Note! The diminutive of Patrick is Paddy, not Patty!)

A crowd of people waiting on the parade, dressed in green Irish emblems and Irish scarves. There is a big crowd of people. They are on O'Connell Street looking at the Camera.

Shamrocks have become a ubiquitous symbol of St. Patrick’s Day! It is said that St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish when spreading Christianity throughout Pagan Ireland in the 17th Century. As a result, shamrocks are seen as a symbol of luck. At the end of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, it is traditional to put a shamrock into a glass of whiskey, beer, or cider and give a toast to St. Patrick, Ireland, and those present. The shamrock is swallowed, or thrown over one’s shoulder for good luck. Sláinte!

A close up image of a three leafed shamrock.

Of course, you have to wear green during Paddy’s Day! Green symbolises the Emerald Isle, after all. The colour green represents freedom and liberty to the Irish as an independent nation free from British rule, and has become associated with everything Irish thereafter. 

Ireland is not the only place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, as many of the Irish diaspora have spread the customs throughout their new homes, turning St. Patrick’s Day into a worldwide festival. This can be seen by how lots of famous landmarks light up green, celebrating the life of St. Patrick, such as the White House and Sydney Opera House.

Many festivals and parades are held throughout the world, from the US to Australia, to Japan, to Mexico, and even the International Space Station! Let’s celebrate St. Paddy’s Day together!

The Irish tricolour flag (green, white, orange) displayed in the window of the International Space Ship overlooking the Earth from Outer Space.