St Patrick’s Day

St Patricks Day Parties
St Patricks Day Parties  Image: UnknownNet Photography (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

St Patrick’s Day is celebrated throughout the world with demonstrations of pride in Irish heritage, music, food, and that welcoming Irish spirit. Cities across the globe, including Dublin, New York City, and Sydney, all organize impressive St Patrick's Day parades along with festivals, concerts, street fairs, and plenty of wacky costumes. While the history of Saint Patrick’s Day might not be too central to the celebrations throughout the world, the day is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of Ireland. Almost anywhere you find yourself in the world will have an Irish pub and a pint of Guinness waiting for you to celebrate Ireland’s most famous holiday.

St Patrick’s Day
St Patrick’s Day

March 17 is the official St Patrick’s Day. No matter what day of the week the 17th falls on, Ireland and Northern Ireland celebrate the national holiday by having the day off work. Other cities in the world, such as Boston, Auckland, and New Orleans all celebrate Paddy’s day on the weekend closest to the 17th. This does allow the maximum amount of local people to take place in the festivities, yet some people are inevitably disappointed that the actual day isn’t celebrated. New York City is an exception—the largest city in the US holds one of the best St Patrick’s Day parades on March 17, no matter what day of the week it falls on.

The history of Saint Patrick’s Day dates back to the fifth century AD. March 17 is said to be the day Saint Patrick died in the year 493, and each year, this date is celebrated in honor of the most famous patron saint of Ireland, the other two being St Columba and St Brigid of Kildare. Some of the legends that are told about Saint Patrick are that he banished all the snakes from Ireland and that he was guided by visions. St Patrick was born in Britain and was brought to Ireland by Irish raiders who had invaded his family’s estate. During his six years of captivity, he turned to religion for comfort. Patrick escaped his captors and began to study religion more devotedly. Over time, he began to convert the Irish to Catholicism. One of the best-known facts about the history of Saint Patrick’s Day is that Patrick used the three-leaf clover to explain the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost concept of Catholicism.

St Patrick’s Day in New York City
St Patrick’s Day in New York City

Many St Patrick’s Day events don’t acknowledge this religious past, yet some cities do offer a mass at the beginning or end of their parades. St Patrick’s Day is now a national holiday and not only a religious one, and celebrations have been extended to all aspects of Irish culture. At the core of festivities is always traditional music and dance. Food and drink is also an important Irish contribution to world culture, from creamy pints of Guinness to Irish stew with brown soda bread. Last but certainly not least, the holiday is a celebration of Irish hospitality and the welcoming, accepting spirit that the country has become known for worldwide.

St Patricks Parades
St Patricks Parades  Image: michaelnugent (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

At the core of many celebrations are St Patrick’s Day parades. Floats, flags, marching bands, and dancers take to the streets on four continents to honor the patron saint of Ireland. Whether you are in Auckland New Zealand or Boston, you are sure to experience a sense of pride in people with Irish heritage. Family friendly events are planned in many cities, along with almost Mardi Gras type parties in some American cities. No matter where you plan to be for the Irish holiday, be sure to plan ahead and reserve your hotel and airfare as far in advance as possible. Places such as Savannah and Chicago are very popular places to celebrate the holiday despite lacking a significant Irish population. Get ready to watch the river or fountains dyed emerald green, join in on the traditional songs, and wear your most creative green costume all in celebration of the culture of one small but influential island.

Top image: Ryan Johnson/North Charleston (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
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