You’ve heard of St Patrick’s Day before, surely. You’ve probably worn green, attended a parade, and drank of pint of Guinness. But why? What’s the day really all about?
Visiting Ireland for St Patrick’s Day is a unique experience, but visiting the Emerald Isle any other day of the year will afford you rolling green hills, cheerful pubs, rugged coastlines, steep cliffs, meandering trails and delicious food. One great way to get the most out of Ireland is by visiting on foot.
Hiking through Ireland gives you a new perspective on the country, its landscapes, and the traditions, stories and folklore entwined with the land.
You may have heard it called all three of the above. Which is right? Well, that depends on where you are. Let’s break it down:
Every year on March 17th, the Irish celebrate the patron saint of Ireland all around the world, a man called St Patrick. And because we’re a friendly bunch, anyone who wishes to join in is more than welcome! What started as a religious celebration in the 17th century has evolved to celebrate the history and culture of Ireland in general.
March 17th is significant as he died on this date – today, pay homage to his memorial tomb at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. Learn more about St Patrick here.
There are places all over Ireland associated with St Patrick. In County Galway: Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain is a much-beloved pilgrimage route (especially on Reek Sunday, the final Sunday of July, which sees a mass pilgrimage to the top) and Mam Ean, or the Pass of the Birds, where there is a shrine dedicated to the saint. And in County Mayo, check out the beautiful Downpatrick Head and sea stack, once a popular spot for pilgrims.
Check out our hiking trip, Hike the Mountains of Connemara & Mayo to follow in the steps of St Patrick yourself!
There are several different stories about why we wear shamrocks on St Patrick’s Day.
Irish folklore says St Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans. The wearing of shamrocks goes back as far back at the 17th century. At the time, the Irish Catholic religion was forced underground due to British rule. Strict laws prevented Catholics from attending school.
The Catholics formed ‘hedge schools’ in secret to continue their education – which took place in actual bushes! The teachers used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to pupils. To show their defiance of British rule, the Irish Catholics started wearing shamrocks.
Another version of the story involves the Boer War and Queen Victoria. The war wasn’t as easy as Queen Victoria had anticipated. The military struggled to overcome their enemies and causalities mounted.
Irish volunteers made up many of the British regiments. To keep Irish support strong in the military, Queen Victoria formed a new unit called the Irish Guards, who were allowed them to wear a sprig of shamrock on St Patrick’s Day.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Ireland is known as The Emerald Isle, largely because of how green the countryside is – which is what makes it such a perfect spot for hiking.
Blue was the original colour associated with St Patrick. During the 1790’s, the colour green became entwined with Irish nationalism. So as a rebellion to British rule, the Irish began wearing green, picking up steam throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Not only do people wear green today, but buildings and bodies of water in various cities around the world ‘Go Green’ for St Patrick’s Day. In 2015, 150 of the world’s most famous landmarks went green. Some recent famous sites include:
So, are you going green?
Every year on St Patrick’s Day, there are parades all over the world. Believe it or not, the first ever St Patrick’s Day parade was not held in Ireland. In fact, it was in New York in 1762. The first parade wasn’t held in Ireland until 1903! In 1762, it was Irish soldiers in the British Army who held the first parade. Many Irish immigrated to America in the 19th century and the celebration became widespread.