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Why is St Patrick’s Day Popular Around the World?

5 min read

Read on to find out more …

By Dawn Rainbolt, Marketing Executive
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Come March 17th, millions of people around the globe will take to the streets, pubs and restaurants to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

An expected 13 millions pint of Guinness will be consumed worldwide, and over $5 billion will be spent by green-toting revellers. More than half of all Americans are expected to partake in the celebrations!

But there are lots of saints out there and most of them have a designated saint’s day. So why is St Patrick’s Day popular? And why is St Patrick’s Day celebrated above other saints’ days worldwide?

St Patrick's Day popular parade

St Patrick’s Day popular parade celebrations take place all across North America

Well, part of the reason for St Patrick’s Day popularity lies in the huge Irish diaspora. In fact, Ireland has the highest native-born population living overseas of any country across the globe.

During the Famine Years of the mid-1800s, about a quarter of Ireland emigrated abroad (that’s over 2 million people!). Though they were forced to leave their country behind, they never forgot their traditions. Many settled in predominantly-Irish communities, making an ideal catalyst for passing on Irish culture and tradition to their children throughout the generations.

In the USA, cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago saw huge increases in their Irish populations. Irish emigrants also headed to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and more. All said and done, some estimates put the extended Irish diaspora at more than 100 million people (that’s more than 15 times the population of Ireland!)

St Patrick was always a significant figure in Ireland, though his celebrated importance dates back to about the 17th century, when St Patrick’s feast day was officially placed on the Catholic Church’s calendar. Ireland has long been a somewhat conservative country where religion was important. Therefore St Patrick, the man who is credited with bringing Christianity to the island, is worth celebrating!

St Patrick's Day popular parade North America

St Patrick’s Day parades in North America are full of orange and green.

But where in Ireland St Patrick’s Day was mainly a somber and religious affair (the pubs were closed on March 17th until the 1970s), something got a bit lost in translation in North America. Over time, Irish traditions blended with American culture (and consumerism), producing what we now recognise as St Patrick’s Day. To put it into perspective, the first St Patrick’s Day parade wasn’t in Ireland – it was in Boston, USA (in 1737). The longest St Patrick’s Day parade? Not in Ireland – it’s in New York City. The list goes on.

So why is St Patrick’s Day popular? Modern celebrations have been largely influenced by the Irish diaspora – a series of vaguely Irish traditions that have been handed down through the generations of Irish living abroad. Only in the past few decades has Ireland jumped on the St Patty’s bandwagon!

More About St Patrick’s Day

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Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

“American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.”

View profileMore by Dawn

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