St Patrick’s Day Traditions & Celebrations

Saint Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and we have decided to look at some of the traditions of the annually celebrated day.

Saint Patrick’s Festival or the Feast of Saint Patrick is a cultural and religious celebration occurring annually on 17 March, the death date and most commonly-recognised patron Saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick.

Celebration & Traditions

On Saint Patrick’s Day it is customary to wear shamrock and/or green clothing or accessories (“the wearing of green). St Patrick is said to have used the Shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. The wearing of the “St Patrick’s Day Cross”, especially in World War I era, by the Irish, was also a popular custom. These St Patrick’s Day Crosses have a Celtic Christian Cross made of paper that is “covered with silk or ribbon of different colours, and a bunch or rosette of green silk in the centre.”

The colour green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick’s Day since at least the 1680s. Green was adopted as the colour of the Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, an Irish brotherhood founded in about 1750. However, when the Order of Saint Patrick – An Anglo-Irish chivalric society – was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its colour. In the 1790s, green became associated with Irish Nationalism when it was used by the United Irishmen. This was a  republic organisation – led mostly by Protestants but with many Catholic members – who launched a rebellion in 1798 against British rule. The phrase “wearing of the green” comes from a song of the same name, which laments United Irishmen supporters being persecuted for wearing green. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick’s Day grew.

St Patrick’s Festival Today

The first St Patricks Festival was held on 17 March 1996. A year later, it became a three-day celebrated event, and by the year 2000 it was a four-day event. By 2006, the festival was five days long and over 500,000 people attended the parade. In 2009 almost one-million people took part in various celebrations across Dublin, which included, outdoor theatre performances, fireworks, concerts & more.

The topic of the 2004 Saint Patrick’s Symposium was “Talking Irish”, during which the nature of Irish identity, economic success, and the future were discussed. Since 1996, there has been a greater emphasis on celebrating and projecting a fluid and inclusive notion of “Irishness” rather than an identity based around traditional religious or ethnic allegiance. The week around Saint Patrick’s Day usually involves Irish language speakers using more Irish during Seachtain Na Gaeilge (“Irish Language Week”).

As well as Dublin, many other cities, towns, and villages in Ireland hold their own parades and festivals, including Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, and Waterford. The biggest celebrations outside Dublin are in Downpatrick, County Down, where Saint Patrick is rumoured to be buried. In 2004, according to Down District Council, the week-long Saint Patrick’s Festival had more than 2,000 participants and 82 floats, bands, and performers and was watched by more than 30,000 people.

The shortest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world takes place in Dripsey, Cork. The parade lasts just 100 yards and travels between the village’s two pubs.

Celebrations around the world

  • The White House fountain goes green.
  • Sydney Opera House goes green.
  • The pyramids and Sphinx in Giza, Egypt is lit-up green.
  • Amman Citadel Jordan is lit green.
  • Romania’s Parliament Palace is illuminated in green.
  • HMS Belfast is lit-up green.
  • The Las Vegas “Welcome” sign is turned green.
  • The Armadillo, Glasgow is turned green.
  • The Pacific Science Centre, Seattle is turned green.
  • The Chicago River is dyed green.
  • Parades in America, Russia, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Poland and many more.

Whatever your plans for St Patricks Day, make sure to check out for information on upcoming events and be sure to visit Temple Bar Hotel, in the heart of Dublin city which embodies the atmosphere of Irish culture & society.

St Paddys Day 2015


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