Saint Patrick’s Day – The Most Famous Holiday in Ireland

Saint Patrick's Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick - the most important patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick's Day commemorates the entrance of Christianity in Ireland, as well as the Irish heritage and culture in general. Public parades and festivals are common, as are céilis and the wearing of green clothing or shamrocks.

The reason why this day is also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick, was because of its root in Christianity. The day was meant to be the commemoration after the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert. On this day, restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted, which is meant to encourage the assumption of alcohol. As such, people often dance, drink, and throw a feast to celebrate.


How the Holiday Comes to Be?

As mentioned above, many people will find it surprising that Saint Patrick’s Day was never meant to be a holiday. It was and still remains a holy day in Christianity. It was first established as a modest religious holiday in honour of the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. As it fell right in the middle of a stringent fasting period, it was seen as an opportunity to break away from all of the restraints and abstinence. It wasn’t until 1904 that it was recognised as a public holiday in Ireland.

But the origin of the celebration dates much earlier. Starting somewhere in the 9th or 10th century, in Ireland, people have been observing March 17 as the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick. The very first parade happened in America, however, not Ireland. According to records, the parade took place on March 17, 1601, in a Spanish colony that is today’s St. Augustine, Florida. The parade, as well as the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day the year prior, was owing to the Spanish Colony's Irish vicar Ricardo Artur.

The celebration of this holiday as we see today has a lot more to do with the immigrants rather than native, more specifically, the Irish immigrants in America. Parades began to pop up in big US cities in the 1700s. More than a century after the events mentioned above saw March 17, 1772, which marked the day when a slew of homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in New York to honour the holiday. The enthusiasm permeated into many other major cities in the world like New York, Boston, etc. Over the following years, thanks to the surging Irish patriotism, several so-called “Irish Aid” emerged, including the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society, who would proceed to organise parades with bagpipes and drums.

In 1848, a number of Irish Aid societies based in New York decided to unite their parades into one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Until this day, that remains the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the USA, with over 150,000 people joining. Today, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the five-hour procession yearly.

Who is Saint Patrick?

Saint Patrick was most notably known as the patron saint of Ireland. Although the specifics of his dates of life remain unsettled, he is believed to have lived in the fifth century.

It was said that he was never officially canonised, as he is said to have lived prior to the inception of the current laws of Catholic Church. Regardless, he is widely revered as a Saint in both the Catholic Church and in Eastern Orthodox Church.

According to Patrick’s autobiographical Confessio, when he was sixteen, Irish pirates nabbed him from his home in Britain, took him to Ireland, and make him into a slave. He survived being a slave for six years before fleeing and returning to his home. Once he had become an ecclesiastic, he went back to Ireland. Later on in his life, he served as a bishop, but the specifics on where he worked remained elusive. By the 7th century, he had already been venerated as the patron saint of Ireland, as he was credited to have been the one who brought Christianity to Ireland.

However, his life was filled with mysteries and myths, and the tales in his name became more and more ingrained in Irish culture. One of the most notable one of those mythologies is the legend of Saint Patrick, in that he allegedly explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) using the three-clover shamrock, a type of leaf native to Ireland.

The many unconfirmable details about his life brought lots of doubts to his name. His uncertain dates of life, his vague record, his self-proclaimed slavery, etc are to reasons for doubters to taint his name. Many went as far as even questioning his existence. Some didn’t go that far but did question whether things that have been traditionally associated with him were his deeds all along. An Irish academic named T. F. O'Rahilly proposed the "Two Patricks" theory, in which it is suggested that many traditions associated with Saint Patrick actually stemmed from Palladius, one of the earliest clerics of Ireland and a contemporary of Saint Patrick. Although the theory is highly controversial, it did raise quite a few eyebrows about just how much we “know” of Saint Patrick were true.

What to do on Saint Patrick’s Day?

There are plenty of things to do on Saint Patrick’s Day. So, whether you’re planning to partake in the parade, or staying at home, do some of the below to bathe in the atmosphere of the holiday.

Learn more about Saint Patrick’s Day


The day’s history dates back to the fifth century and it’s certainly rich and fascinating. One should never walk away on the cusp of knowledge, so if you’re still in the dark about the history of Saint Patrick’s Day, this is the perfect chance to learn more.

Get a Shamrock Shake

Created in 1967 by McDonald’s owner Hal Rosen, this mint-flavoured, bright green smoothie slash milkshake has been a popular seasonal specialty that is widely enjoyed by many people on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Image from Food and Wine

Dress up in green

What other colour to wear on Saint Patrick’s Day other than green? But why not make use of this opportunity to go completely overboard on this day? Everyone is going to love it! Break out your greenest piece of clothing!


Drink Green Beer

Green Ber seems odd, but anything that isn't green isn’t normal on Saint Patrick’s Day! Whether you love Guinness flavour or something else, make sure to booze some green bear in the spirit of the holiday.


Swig a pint of Guinness

If you don’t fancy some weird-looking, posh-green, out-of-whack beer (but let’s face it, if you don’t enjoy green, why are you even celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day?), you can also go old-school and enjoy the famous thick-and-rich dry stout. There’s a reason why approximately nearly 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed on St. Patrick's Day across the world. You’d know once you try it.

Image from Unsplash

Plant Shamrock

Shamrock isn’t a plant that really brings about any herbs with medicinal benefits or whatnot, but it was never meant to be one. The whole schtick of it is it brings luck. What better day to plant one in your garden other than Saint Patrick’s Day? Who knows? You may end up having a four-clover soon.

Bake some Soda Bread

Soda bread is quick and easy. Simple to make but delicious to taste. It’s also incredibly versatile as it can accompany many kinds of food, from stews to sauces. Being one of the most favourite Irish foods there are, it’s one to make for a festive feeling of Saint Patrick’s Day?


Corned Beef and Cabbage

When the Irish immigrants in the US struggled to find bacon, they used corned beef instead for their traditional bacon and cabbage. The result is the now world-famous classic Irish dish, corned beef and cabbage. Super simple to make but takes nice and earthy, a dish definitely having frequently, or at least, on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Binge-watching Some Irish Series

If you’re a movie lover, but you’re really struggling for time to enjoy a movie, Saint Patrick’s Day is a perfect excuse to indulge in a bit of an Irish movie marathon. Bake some soda bread, get yourself some green beer, prepare some corned beef and cabbage, and you’re ready to binge away.


Create an Irish Playlist

What other way to bathe yourself in the holiday spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day than drowning in some Irish songs? If you don’t really know your way around Irish music, this is the time to make a playlist dedicated to those songs.


Join St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Cork City

If you happen to be in Ireland during March, definitely do not miss out St. Paddy’s Day parade in Cork City - yes, the biggest event of the year has come back! This year’s theme will be HEROES - Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times - with all the vibrant and colourful displays throughout the city to celebrate the Irish national day. The event starts on March 17th and ends on March 20th. See more information here.

Khoa Pham

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