St. Patrick’s Day History, Traditions and Fun Facts

St. Patricks Day CAGSSt. Patrick is the figure most prominently associated with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and we celebrate the holiday on March 17 as this is the date in 461 AD of his death. Very little is actually known about St. Patrick’s mission in Ireland, but there are plenty of popular legends surrounding this very popular holiday filled with shamrocks, four leaf clovers and leprechauns. Cities all around the world hold parades to honor St. Patrick’s Day and festivals are held to mark this special occasion. Traditional Irish food and drink is typically a staple of St. Patrick’s Day menus in restaurants, bars and at private parties.

History of St. Patrick’s Day

Christianity is known for celebrating the anniversary of saints’ deaths and St. Patrick is no different. By celebrating the anniversary of a saint’s death, believers can honor the saint’s accomplishments and celebrate his entry into Heaven. Every saint’s anniversary is designated a “feast day,” even if the exact date of the death is not known. The Feast of St. Patrick has been observed on March 17 in Ireland for centuries, and St. Patrick’s Day falls during the fasting season of Lent. The prohibitions against eating meat were lifted for this holiday, and the Irish celebrated their saint with drinking, dancing and feasting on traditional Irish food like Irish Bacon (Corned Beef) and cabbage.

One of the most widespread traditions is the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which actually began in New York and not Ireland. The first parade consisted of Irish soldiers serving in the English Army marching on March 17, 1762 to help the soldiers connect with their Irish roots. The St. Patrick’s Day parade in NYC is the oldest and largest civilian parade in U.S. history. Today, people with no Irish connections whatsoever celebrate this very popular holiday.

Unlike here in America, in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious festival. In Dublin, Ireland, the celebration has extended to a week-long event called the St. Patrick’s Festival and included a fireworks display, music, theater and a traditional parade.

St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

Some of the most common St. Patrick’s Day traditions we see in this country include wearing green, enjoying Irish food and drink, listening to Irish folk music and watching Irish dance. In 1962, the tradition of dying the Chicago River green began when green dye was used to trace illegal sewage dishcarges in the river. 100 pounds of green vegetable dye kept the river green for a week, and it’s become a yearly tradition ever since then. One change, however. To minimize damage to the environment, only 40 pounds of dye is used now.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the faculty and staff of CCU’s College of Adult and Graduate Studies.