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St Patrick's Day

What is St Patrick’s Day? Who celebrates it? And who exactly is St Patrick? Learn all about the famous day when you have to wear green and the world suddenly becomes Irish for 24 hours.

What is St Patrick's Day?

Held on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s national holiday, commemorating the most renowned of Ireland’s patron saints. Though always an important figure in Irish culture and communities, the importance of St Patrick was actually cemented in the 17th century.

The modern holiday actually has its roots in the massive Irish emigration of the 19th century linked to the Great Hunger (also called the Irish Famine), the preference for sheep over tenants, the poor soil, rural communities, and harsh conditions. Emigration was strong in America, Canada and Australia, where they new arrivals tended to stick together in Irish communities, bringing their own culture and tradition. Irish tradition melded with American culture. Over time, St Patrick’s Day went from a somber, religious affair (as it was in Ireland), to a great celebration of Irish pride. Eventually, this version of the holiday gained fame worldwide.

Who is Saint Patrick?

Born in Wales in the 4th century, Patrick was brought to Ireland as a child. He managed to escape to Europe where he took refuge in the wings of the Church, becoming first a priest then a bishop.

As an adult, he took it upon himself to return to Ireland and convert the pagans to Christianity. He spent years travelling around the island, preaching the word of God, teaching the “heathens” about the “true” religion, and embarking on countless fasts, pilgrimages and healings. In fact, pilgrimages become an important and ever-present part of Irish Catholicism for centuries to come.

Patrick as later canonised as St Patrick to become one of Ireland’s three patron saints (alongside St Columba and St Brigid, who was actually a pagan goddess who was Christianised). He was and still is greatly revered – and anything associated with him became priceless. There are still countless artefacts and relics associated with St Patrick knocking around Ireland today.

St Patrick's Day Throughout the World

Though St Patrick and St Patrick’s Day are Irish, most of the world celebrates St Patrick’s Day. It is a day in which everybody all of a sudden claims to be Irish, and Irish pubs are full to bursting.

The Irish diaspora is staggeringly huge. Since the early 1700s, it’s been documented that 9-10 million people have emigrated (keeping in mind we’ve only got a population of 6 million today, and that’s counting the whole island!). Today, about 80 million people claim some form of Irish heritage (including 36 million Americans). So perhaps it’s no surprise that St Patrick’s Day is truly a global event.

Pints of Guinness

On average, some 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed worldwide. Though Guinness is easily the most famous Irish pint, it doesn’t travel too well. Guinness really does taste different (better, obviously!) in Ireland, so you’ll have to travel here yourself to taste the real thing.

In the last 5-10 years, Ireland has seen an increase in craft beers and microbreweries, with each region boasting at least one or two small breweries! Because of their small size, most Irish craft brews are only available here in Ireland.

 

 

The Globe Goes Green

Hundreds of world landmarks go green each year for St Patrick’s Day as part of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative. In the past year, there were over 300 landmarks in 50 countries that participated in the global greening, and more join every year.

Landmarks include the Sydney Opera House, Rome’s Colosseum, the Great Wall of China, Adare Manor, Christ the Redeemer, the leaning tower of Pisa, Paris’ Place de la Concorde, Niagara Falls, even the blue whale skeleton at London’s Natural History Museum.

Parades

Even though this is our national day, generally, the biggest St Patrick’s Day parades are found in the US. (In Ireland, we have big parades in Dublin and Galway. Each village holds their own parades but generally, they are a lot more… agricultural and rural!). Some of the biggest St Patrick’s Day parades are that of New York City’s parade (features 50,000 to 250,000 participants) and dates back to 1762.

Sydney is another big one – once again, a tradition brought by 18th and 19th century Irish emigrants). Other cities with big parades include Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, and London. Even Munich has one!

What's the weather like for St Patrick's Day?

Spring in Ireland

Spring in Ireland is one of our loveliest seasons. Though the Gaelic calendar puts spring staring on St Brigid’s Day (February 1st), March, April and May are generally regarded as spring seasons in Ireland.

High temperatures are usually between 11-16°C (50-60°F), with lows down to 4-6°C (39-42°F). We do get a good amount of rainfall, but this means beautiful emerald hills and plenty of rainbows. In fact, compared to other seasons, Irish spring has some of the driest months!

Longer days combined with new lambs and plenty of flowers in gardens and fields make it one of the best times to travel in Ireland.

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