St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of all things Irish (especially culture and history), annually observed on March 17. The holiday is a nationally recognized event in Ireland. Worldwide, celebrants mark the date with parades, green attire, green beer, Irish food and festive music.
Who was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. The British-born saint was raised by wealthy parents; his father was a Christian deacon. Despite St. Patrick's renown, there is much that is unknown, mysterious and even falsely reported about him.
Myths, folklore and tall tales
Traditional Irish folklore associated with the saint includes a tale about him banishing all snakes from Ireland. These accounts have been debunked, although generations of tall tales and folk stories continue to breathe life into them. Some believe the snakes are actually metaphors for pagans who were converted to Christianity by St. Patrick.
The color green became affiliated with St. Patrick’s Day in the 19th century, long after St. Patrick’s death. According to popular Irish legend, green is worn by immortals, fairies and farmers who want to spread a good omen of growth and fertility for crops.
Why March 17?
This particular date was chosen because it marks the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick. Also, popular belief regards March 17 as the date of St. Patrick’s death, around the year 461.
St. Patrick's Day observations worldwide
Celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day across the world vary in form, size, activities and degrees of reverence. Still, most are held March 17, honor Irish culture and make green the prominent color.
The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was not held in Ireland. It took place in 1762 in New York City. Today, Chicago dyes its river green for the holiday. Seattle paints a green stripe on its roads and commemorates the day with a ceremony. American bars and pubs serve green draft beer and Irish comfort foods and host Irish musicians or bands. Many wear green clothing to avoid the pinches of others. Some brave, bold souls dye their hair green. Catholics may attend morning mass on March 17, followed by a holiday parade or festivities.
Celebrations in Ireland
The Irish usually wear shamrock bunches on their jacket lapels or hats. Kids don orange, white and green badges to signify the colors of the Irish flag. Women and girls wear green ribbons and hair bows. Some believe that if you place a shamrock on top of your glass of whiskey before drinking it, you'll be prosperous for the rest of the year. This custom is referred to as "drowning the shamrock."
St. Patrick's Day is the perfect excuse to don some green, eat Irish comfort foods, drink a pint, pinch non-celebrants and immerse yourself in the deep traditions, cultures and customs of the Emerald Isle.