Whether you just like to enjoy a pint of the black stuff or want to know something more don’t miss this guide to the Origins of St. Patricks Day!

The day itself has long been a celebration of Irish culture and all that makes our island great. From ceili dances to Irish music festivals there are a few ways to spend the day! Before you pay for your pint make sure you check out this guide on the origins of our national day.


St. Patrick’s Day FactsWhat are the Origins of St. Patricks Day? | Why do we celebrate it on the 17th of March? 

 How do we traditionally celebrate it? |  St Patrick’s Day Parades Worldwide?

St Patrick’s Day Facts

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What are the Origins of St. Patrick’s Day?

If you were to ask someone not from Ireland today who was St. Patrick, I’d bet that a lot of them would say “he’s the guy who drove the snakes out of Ireland”. The real origin isn’t all that magical but it is still pretty interesting. It was, in fact, the cold weather that drove the snakes out instead. Some historians believe that the so-called ‘snakes’ were in actual fact druids and when St. Patrick began preaching Christianity it was the druids that he drove out.

Where and when was St. Patrick Born?

St. Patrick himself was born around 385 AD in a place that is often contested. Despite what popular opinion might say about St. Patrick himself he was, in fact, English not Irish. It is now thought that was he was born in either Scotland or Wales. It’s also thought that he was born to Roman parents and it was only later in life that he established his strong connection to Ireland.

Another interesting fact about the man himself was that he was originally called Maewyn Succat. Patrick was the name he took when he became a Christian priest and began his preaching mission to Ireland.

Pope Celestine commissions Saint Patrick.

The History of St. Patrick

The history of St. Patrick is really quite interesting. When he was a young man he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland by pirates where he was forced to work as a herdsman. After 6 years he managed to escape and became a Christian priest and eventually became a bishop. After this, he spent around 30 years travelling around Ireland establishing schools, churches and monasteries. In his later life he was appointed the first bishop of Ireland and thus his strong ties with Ireland were cemented.

When did St. Patrick die?

After a long life serving the spiritual needs of the people of Ireland St. Patrick died on the 17th March 461AD. How he died is perhaps not as interesting as his early life. St. Patrick died peacefully in Saul, Downpatrick. From then on this date became emblematic of St. Patrick and by extension the Irish people themselves. He was officially adopted as the patron saint of Ireland in the 1780s and his symbol, the red saltire even formed part of the British flag after the Act of Union in 1800.  There are plenty of myths surrounding this famous figure in Irish history but unfortunately very few of them are true.

How is St. Patrick’s Day traditionally celebrated?

There are a couple of ways to celebrate the day that don’t just involve drinking until you can’t drink anymore. One of the strongest traditions is to put on whatever items of green clothing you have for the day. Another way is to pin some fresh shamrock to your jacket. It’s thought that St. Patrick’s initially used the shamrock to teach people about the holy trinity. The three leaves were used to illustrate the father, son and holy spirit according to Christian tradition.

Temple Bar Decorated Green

The True Colour of St. Patrick

One popular misconception, however, is that green is the colour of St. Patrick. This is, in fact, a falsehood and the true colour of St. Patrick is blue. The emphasis on wearing green is actually a more recent occurrence in an attempt to draw closer ties with the Irish independence movement.  However, there is evidence of people wearing green and donning the shamrock since the 17th century.

A Dry St. Patrick’s Day?

As St. Patrick is a religious figure you can imagine that the original celebration of his life was based on religion. The amazing thing is that until the 1970s in Ireland, all pubs in the country were closed and there was nowhere you could grab a pint on the 17th of March. Another interesting fact is that the day shared a lot in common with Good Friday. It was, in fact, a meat-free day in accordance with Lenten fasting.

St Patrick’s Day Parades – Worldwide

There is, of course, the St. Patrick’s day parades that take place not only in Dublin but around the world. Some of the most famous examples include the USA, Canada, Scotland, Australia and even as far away as China. Each one of these parades is a fantastic celebration of Irish culture and some of them like the New York parade might even top the Irish one!

New York City Parade
Photo: Gavin Whitner, flickr*

St. Patrick’s Day in New York City

The illustrious New York City parade did, in fact, begin a long time ago. The influx of Irish immigrants into New York in the 1700s meant that a lot of them brought their traditions with them including the celebration of the national day. The first parade took place in New York in 1762 and reportedly a massive 250,000 people took to the streets to celebrate. The time honoured tradition is to walk up 5th avenue on foot.

St. Patricks Day in Boston and Chicago

Of course, with such a large population in America that claim Irish heritage, you would be right to assume that there are plenty of places that celebrate the day. Boston is another city that has a long history of taking the day very seriously.

One of the most outlandish ways that the day is celebrated is perhaps in the city of Chicago. Beginning in late 1961 the union of the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers began by pouring 45 kg of green dye into the river. This initial dyeing of the lake lasted for a whole week! They’ve fined tuned it a little bit better these days by only pouring in around 11kg of dye which lasts for about 5 hours in total.

Chicago River Dyed Green

The dye that they used, in the beginning, was intended to help people spot pollution. However, due to the fact that it was an oil-based fluorescein, it did more damage to the river than people first thought. Today the organizers used a vegetable-based dye which is actually orange until it hits the water. The actual ingredients of the dye are kept top secret.

So there you have it! This a general guide to how this fantastic day got started. Do you have any other interesting stories about the day? If you do please let us know and keep it tuned to the blog for the latest fantastic deals and offers on breaks away!


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*Photo: Gavin Whitner, Musicoomph.com (Flickr)
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