St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide on 17th March. What started as a Roman Catholic Feast Day for St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, has become universally recognised as a celebration of Irish culture and is now celebrated worldwide.
History of St. Patrick’s Day
Born sometime late in the 4th Century, St Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. As with many figures of the time, many stories about St. Patrick are false and not much is known about his life. Many scholars believe he was born in Wales, not Ireland, and how he came to be in Ireland and a Catholic is debated.
Traditionally it is believed that at 16, St. Patrick was imprisoned by Irish raiders for 6 years. During this time, St. Patrick was made to work as a shepherd, which led to him discovering his faith. A faith that, reportedly, helped him to escape from his captors and board a cargo ship travelling to Europe and eventually make his way back home where he joined the clergy.
Others believe this to be unlikely as St. Patrick would have had to travel to Europe, then back to Britain, undetected and reclaim his status. Instead, some argue that he likely fled to Ireland of his own free will in order to avoid inheriting his father’s job as a Roman tax collector.
Whichever account is true, it’s clear that St Patrick eventually returned to Ireland after he was ordained as a deacon and began work as a missionary where he converted Druid priests, Chieftains, and Irish Aristocrats until his death on March 17th 461 A.D.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the anniversary of his death and has been observed since the 9th or 10th Century, despite the fact that St. Patrick was never officially canonized as a Catholic Saint. Traditionally, this Catholic Feast Day would be celebrated by attending church during the morning and, as it falls during Lent, Lenten restrictions would be waived to allow for a traditional meal of bacon and cabbage. Celebrations today are influenced more by the traditions that originated in America such as parades.
How To Celebrate
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations draw massive crowds today and not just those with Irish heritage, it’s commonplace for bars and streets to be packed on St. Patrick’s Day. Whether you plan on joining the crowds at the parades and bars or want to celebrate at home, here are some ideas on how to celebrate:
- Parades: St Patrick’s Day parades first began in America. First in the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Florida in 1601 and then more than a century later in New York City in 1772. The tradition grew and now parades are held in most places across the world. This year, St. Patrick’s Day parades are planned in London, New York City, Dublin.
- Drinking Irish beer or whiskey: For those of us that like a drink, going to your local Irish pub can be a fun way to celebrate with friends, or, if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, a quiet night in with a Guinness or Jameson’s. For an alcohol-free alternative, there’s always Guinness’ non-alcoholic beer. If beer, alcohol-free or not, isn’t your thing, leaning into the green theme of St. Patrick’s Day and making a green drink could be a fun way to celebrate.
- Wear green: Simply wearing the colour green is perfect for a more low-key and subtle way of celebrating.
- Music: Music is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day and something that even those celebrating at home can join in with. There are several St. Patrick’s Day playlists on Spotify and many Irish bands that are gaining popularity. From soul/folk artists like Hozier, rock artists like U2 and, recently, folk/rock Irish bands like The Dubliners, The Irish Rovers, Dropkick Murphy’s, and Derina Harvey Band have all become very popular, thanks to the rise in popularity of sea shanties.
- Shamrocks: One of the myths surrounding St. Patrick is that he used the three-leaved shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity when explaining it to ancient pagans, whether this is accurate or not the shamrock has been used as a national symbol for Ireland since the 18th Going out and finding your very own shamrock is the perfect way to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day.