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Shamrocks | © Irene Davila/Unsplash
Shamrocks | © Irene Davila/Unsplash
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Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Picture of Stephanie Butler
Updated: 14 October 2016
Green, Guinness, and lots of fun are typically associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, on or around March 17th, millions of people across the globe celebrate this Irish tradition – even if they are not Irish! But where do these traditions stem from, and how has St. Patrick’s Day become one of the most celebrated festivals in the world?

Irish Christians and Catholics celebrate ‘St. Patrick Feast Day’ on the 17th of March, the traditional death date of the first ever patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. Supposedly born in England nearing the end of the fourth century, St. Patrick was captured and enslaved by pagans as a teenager and made to work as a shepherd in Ireland for six years. After escaping and returning to his family, he vowed he would one day return. Subsequently, he studied at monasteries in France to become an ordained priest, then a bishop, and on his return to Ireland, he was commissioned as an apostle. He devoted his life establishing the Catholic Church in Ireland, and within 30  years of baptising, confirming and ordaining priests, erecting schools and monasteries, old religions faded and the whole nation had been converted.

Since his death – believed to be in 461 AD – the significance and stories of St. Patrick became ingrained in Irish culture, and celebrations have evolved throughout the centuries. A public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Montserrat and Newfoundland and Labrador, St. Patrick’s Day entitles many to a day off work, to worship and spend time with family. Lented traditions are lifted on the day, allowing feasts to consist of indulgent food and alcohol, and the colour green is worn symbolising Irish culture and the beginning of spring.

According to legend, the shamrock was utilised by St. Patrick to explain to the Irish the Holy Trinity, as each clover represented God as the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit; therefore, it became the official flower of Ireland and a symbol adorned and used as decoration in celebrations today.

In order to keep the tradition and heritage alive, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was held by Irish refugees in Boston in 1737. This was followed by the copious amount of Irish soldiers present in New York in 1762, and celebrations in the US have been present ever since, due to the amount of immigrants. Now, those in Ireland and expats all over the world host and get involved with the tremendous celebrations; rivers in certain cities are temporarily dyed green, and over 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed – over double of what is drank on a regular day!

Parades, festivals, music, dancing, food, wearing green attire and drinking a lot of alcohol make St. Patrick’s Day the vibrant and exhilarating St. Patrick’s Day celebration it is today, accessible for everyone to enjoy.