What is St. Patrick’s Day?

What is St. Patrick’s Day?

When is Saint Patrick's day this year?

March 17th is a day all over the world, to eat, drink and be merry, all in honor of St. Patrick.

What is the point of St Patrick’s day?

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. Some people think that March 17th is St Patrick’s birthday. But it’s wrong. St. Patrick died on March 17th in 461 AD. That’s why is St Patrick’s Day celebrated on March 17; this is a fixed date. 

We’ve collected, for your edification and amusement, a collection of St. Patrick’s Day trivia. Some are obscure facts, some dispel long-held but false beliefs and some are just plain interesting. They’re sure to be good conversation starters on St. Patrick’s Day.

St Paddys or Pattys?

Is it St Patty or Paddy? Seems like Paddy and Patty are shortened “Patrick”. “Paddy” might even appear to be incorrect; quite the contrary. “Paddy” comes from Pádraig (Pádraic), the Irish version of the name. And “Patty” is a shortened nickname for the woman’s name Patricia, so it sounds even offensive! 

Happy St Patrick’s day in Irish: Irish toasts and blessings

“Lá fhĂ©ile Pádraig sona dhuit!” is “Happy Saint Patrick’s day!” in Gaelic. It is pronouncing as “Lah leh Pah-drig Sun-uh gwitch”.
Whatever your libation, you’ll want to memorize a few standard Irish toasts for the occasion. Here are some St Patricks Day quotes and toasts of the more popular ones. Practice saying them with an Irish accent to impress your guests.

“May your glass be ever full
May the roof over your head be always strong
And may you be half an hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.”


“May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.”


“May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”


“Health, and long life to you,
Land without rent to you,
The partner of your heart to you,
And when you die, may your bones rest in Ireland!”

St Patrick’s Day facts and myths

Don’t believe everything you hear. Starting our list of interesting St Patrick’s day facts and myths are those legends known affectionately as blarney in Ireland:

  • St. Patrick did not drive the snakes out of Ireland. They probably never had snakes on the Emerald Isle in the first place.
  • “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” isn’t a popular Irish ballad. It was composed by an American.
  • St. Patrick is not the quintessential Irishman. He was born in Wales. He wasn’t even particularly Christian until after his six-year exile in Ireland.
  • The shamrock isn’t a real plant. Rather, the plant is a type of clover that grows in Ireland.
  • Leprechauns aren’t cute little sprites. They’re evil, mean-spirited little creatures that perform treacherous deceptions to keep you away from that pot of gold.
  • The national symbol of Ireland is the Celtic harp, not the shamrock.

Here are some more tidbits that you can use to quiz your friends:

  • St. Patrick’s Day parades have a history that goes back hundreds of years but didn’t originate in Ireland. The parade in Dublin has a scant 50-year history, while those in Montreal and New York City go back almost 200 and 300 years respectively.
  • Since 1980, the Irish president has presented a shamrock to the U.S. President in a White House ceremony held annually around St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Until her death in 2002, the Queen Mother presented a bowl of shamrocks to the Irish Guards, a regiment of the British Army.
  • Irish gays and lesbians are banned from marching in the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • Some very famous authors were Irish. Did you know that James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift, and Oscar Wilde were all Irish? 
  • Corned beef and cabbage are not a favorite St. Patrick’s Day dish in Ireland. It’s an American dish. The Irish prefer ham or bacon.


St Patrick’s Day in Ireland vs America

America has a long history of Irish immigration, with most of the Irish people coming to eastern shores during the Irish potato famine in the mid-1840s. Here are a few facts about those ancestors and their descendants:

  • Since 1820, almost 5 million Irish citizens have immigrated to the U.S. legally.
  • Almost 34 million current U.S. residents claim some Irish ancestry.
  • The largest concentrations of Americans with Irish ancestry are in Massachusetts (Middlesex and Norfolk counties).
  • A total of nine American towns are called Dublin, with the largest in California.
  • In Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the leading ancestry group is Irish.
  • U.S. Presidents with Irish ancestry include John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In Canada, statesman Thomas D’Arcy McGee and recent Prime Minister Brian Mulroney were of Irish descent.
  • About 30% of Australians claim Irish ancestry.
  • During the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, 75% of Irish immigrants landed in New York.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades in America

A surprising number of major U.S. cities are home to large populations of descendants of Irish immigrants. While most Irish immigrants landed in Boston, Montreal and New York City during the great Irish potato famine of the mid-1800s, many migrated to other cities to seek their fortunes.

Besides New York and Boston, cities on the east coast that have parades include Washington D.C., Alexandria (Virginia), Trenton (New Jersey) and Myrtle Beach (South Carolina). Other major cities with parades include Denver (Colorado), San Diego (California), Phoenix (Arizona), Salt Lake City (Utah), Seattle (Washington) and St. Louis (Missouri), not to mention many small towns named Dublin that is peppered throughout the U.S.

St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

While St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with beer and parades across America, it remained a sedate religious holiday in Ireland until 1955. Realizing the economic benefit of attracting tourism on March 17th, the Irish government began to plan elaborate festivities that would appeal to visitors of all ages.

Today, the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration is a four-day festival with music, dance, arts and crafts fairs, treasure hunts, theater, and traditional Irish food. Don’t miss Dublin’s Skyfest fireworks display and Luminarium, a colorful maze that’s fun for the whole family.

Much of the entertainment is free. Street performers regale visitors with sidewalk theater, choral singing, acrobatics, and even some samba and salsa. You’re always welcome to join the dancing and singing as various processions make their way through the streets of Dublin.

If you’re hesitant to join a crowd of 1.5 million people in Dublin, you might choose smaller cities, like Cork, Limerick or Galway, where the festivities are just as touching and the pipes and drums just as rousing.

St. Patrick’s Day around the world

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations aren’t limited to the Irish neighborhoods of American cities and the towns and villages of Ireland. If you’re traveling to exotic locations around mid-March, you might plan to include the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Yokohama or Tokyo (Japan), Sydney (Australia), or those in London (England), Paris (France), Munich (Germany), Copenhagen (Denmark), Rome (Italy), Moscow (Russia), Singapore (Singapore) and Beijing (China).

In Canada, parades are held in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. Montreal’s annual parade has a history of almost 200 years. Similarly, St. Patrick’s Day is a provincial holiday in Newfoundland.

St Patrick’s Day history

Although Irish historians may never know exactly where is St Patrick from ( where exactly in Ireland he is from) and how he managed to convert so many Irish people to Christianity, some legends about the Irish patron saint have yet to be disputed. Find out how he used the shamrock in his teaching and why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day around the world.

St Patrick’s Day in Ireland traditions
Contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick wasn’t an Irishman. He was born in Wales to a wealthy family. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by raiders who attacked the family estate and sold him into slavery in Ireland.

For six years, Maewyn (St Patrick’s Welsh name) lived in isolation as a shepherd. Historians believe that it was during this period that he turned to his religion for solace and became a devout Christian. He believed that God wanted him to escape his isolation and so he walked about 200 miles to the coast. He then sailed to freedom where he studied for fifteen years to become a missionary.

Since he knew the language and the Irish people, Maewyn was eventually sent to Ireland to minister to the Christians and convert the “pagans” to Christianity. However, he had to compete with the Druid priests who maintained the old religions of the Irish people.

Patrick, as he became known, made use of symbols and practices that were already familiar to the Irish, winning their hearts and souls. For example, he is credited with the design of the Celtic or Irish cross with a sun in the center, as the sun was already a powerful symbol to the people of Ireland.

Legend has it that Patrick used the shamrock or clover to explain the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as a single entity. He also encouraged Easter celebrations with bonfires, as the Irish had traditionally honored their gods with fire.

Although the absence of snakes in Ireland is probably due to weather and geography, St. Patrick is credited with banishing the snakes from the island country. Modern historians see this event as symbolic of St. Patrick’s success at abolishing paganism from Ireland.

St Patrick feast day

The feast day of St. Patrick has long been a religious holiday in Ireland. Since it occurs in the middle of Lent—a season of fasting leading up to Easter— St Patricks Day celebration was a special day on which the fasting requirement was set aside. The Irish people attended church and pubs were closed for the day.

Saint Patty’s Day parade

Although garlands of shamrocks adorn every Irish pub and household on St. Patrick’s Day, you may be surprised to know that the official emblem of Ireland is the Celtic or Irish harp. Satisfy your curiosity about leprechauns, shillelaghs and all things Irish.

While no one would argue that green clothing and shamrock jewelry may be adequate attire for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the authentic symbols of this Irish feast day have a long and complicated history.

St Patrick’s Day symbols

Although garlands of shamrocks adorn every Irish pub and household on St. Patrick’s Day, you may be surprised to know that the official emblem of Ireland is the Celtic or Irish harp. Satisfy your curiosity about leprechauns, shillelaghs and all things Irish.

While no one would argue that green clothing and shamrock jewelry may be adequate attire for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the authentic symbols of this Irish feast day have a long and complicated history.


Shamrocks may be the most recognizable of all of the symbols of St. Patrick’s Day. Stylized versions adorn stationery, flyers announcing parades and St. Patrick’s Day greeting cards. Collections of clip art featuring Kelly green sprays of shamrocks are also readily available on the Internet.

Irish legend has it that St. Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the unity of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

In fact, no real shamrock plant exists. “Shamrock” comes from the Irish Gaelic word seamrog, which means “little clover.” The Irish national emblem typically refers to the white clover plant.

The four-leaf clover is the known bearer of good luck. While three leaves of the clover plant are said to represent faith, hope, and charity, the fourth leaf symbolizes good luck.

The Celtic Harp

The Celtic harp or Irish harp is far more visible in Ireland than the shamrock. As the national symbol of Ireland, the triangular harp is found on currency, on the historical green flag of Ireland, on the Great Seal of the Irish Free State and various government seals and documents. You’ll even see it on Guinness labels, glassware and other merchandise.


Although no historical evidence supports the event, St. Patrick is credited with driving all the snakes out of Ireland. Depending on the version of the legend, he either drove them into the sea after giving a sermon on a hilltop or by fasting and meditating for forty days on a mountain. Either way, the snakes fled into the sea and drowned. The Ice Age took care of any snakes that might have been in Ireland.

During the Ice Age, Ireland was buried in a deep layer of ice and snakes were unable to survive. By the time the enormous glacier had melted and the land was able to sustain snakes, Ireland had drifted twelve miles away from Scotland. With the North Channel as a barrier, no snakes were able to migrate back to Ireland. For this reason, there are no snakes in Ireland. However, the legend of St. Patrick is an allegory that represents the deliverance of Ireland from paganism.


Leprechauns have little to do with St. Patrick’s Day’s. In Irish legend, leprechauns are a far cry from their happy-go-lucky modern counterparts. They were generally seen as bad-tempered spirits, capable of great mischief. While they did have pots of gold that they would have to relinquish if a human caught them, the leprechaun was likely to come after you later to get revenge.

Modern depictions of the leprechaun are usually paired with pots of shiny gold coins situated at the end of a rainbow. In 1959, a Disney film called Darby O’Gill and the Little People starred a crafty old Irishman who was determined to make a fortune by capturing the King of the Leprechauns.


Right alongside shamrocks and leprechauns as ubiquitous symbols of St. Patrick’s Day is the stout walking stick known as the shillelagh (pronounced shah-lay-lee).

In Irish history, the shillelagh was made of oak, blackthorn or another hardwood and was often used as a weapon. The stick had a knobby burl on the handle end that could be hollowed out and reinforced with lead, creating a deadly cudgel. Young boys practiced warrior arts with shillelaghs much as kids today feign martial arts skills with long sticks.

A common Irish saying goes “An Irishman’s heart is as stout as a shillelagh.” This refers to loyalty and strength, two ideal Irish qualities.

Other Irish symbols

The ornamental Celtic knot and the Celtic cross are also well-known Irish symbols. Celtic knots appear in sculptures, jewelry pieces, masonry and burial mounds all over Ireland.

The Claddagh (pronounced claw-da) ring is another sentimental favorite, still used at traditional Irish weddings. It features a crown on a heart held by two hands. The crowned heart symbolizes loyalty and the hands represent friendship. The Irish phrase that accompanies the Claddagh ring goes, “Let love and friendship reign.”

St Patrick’s Day traditions food

Nothing beats a great Irish stew, a thick slice of fried soda bread or authentic boxty. Be sure to plan: some of the key ingredients may have to be ordered straight from the Emerald Isle!
Hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party is easy: put on a pot of Irish stew, pop a loaf of Irish soda bread in the oven and break out the Guinness – that’s traditional St Patrick’s Day food. This hearty fare is perfect for revelers who work up an appetite trying to master the high kicking Irish jig.

On the other hand, if your friends include the O’Malleys and the O’Briens with a smattering of O’Tooles to their St Pattys Day food, you’ll want to do more to impress connoisseurs of fine Irish cuisine! When all those around you are tainting the beer with green food coloring and serving pistachio ice cream, you’ll impress everyone with authentic corned beef and cabbage, boxty (potato pancakes) and a fine scallop pie.

St Pattys Day food

While many Irish foods use a base of potatoes, cabbage, and beef, lamb is often used to make an Irish stew. You can prepare a large number of mashed potatoes in advance to serve as a side dish, or quickly fry them with onions while your meat dish is cooking.

Irish corned beef and cabbage recipe

(adapted from “corned beef and cabbage” on cooks.com)

Although the Irish prefer ham or bacon in their cabbage dishes, the combination of corned beef and cabbage is popular in America, particularly on St. Patrick’s Day.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 2 lbs. corned beef
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 carrots quartered
  • 1 rutabaga peeled
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 red onions cut in wedges
  • 10 whole baby potatoes
  • 1 head of green cabbage cut in wedges
  • 1 jar of honey Dijon mustard

A general rule of thumb is to allot half a pound of corned beef for each guest. To start, cut “x”s all around the meat and insert the cloves and bay leaves into them. Put the meat into a large water-filled pot on the stove. Set to medium heat. Add black pepper and the carrots. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam and reduce to a simmer on low heat. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until meat is close to tender. Add the rest of the cut vegetables to the pot when the meat has about a half-hour left to cook. Cook until meat and vegetables are tender. Drain and serve with honey Dijon mustard.

Sweet Irish soda bread recipe

(adapted from “Irish soda bread” from foodnetwork.com)

You’ll see many recipes for Irish soda bread that include raisins, sugar, honey, and other sweeteners. But the authentic version isn’t sweet at all. Nevertheless, because the base of Irish soda bread involves only flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk, the possible variations on the traditional Irish soda bread are endless.

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves):

  • 5 c. all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ÂĽ c. honey
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ÂĽ lb. butter
  • 1 ½ c. gold and dark raisins (soaked in water for 15 min. and drained)
  • 1 c. dried cranberries (soaked in water for 15 min. and drained)
  • 2 ½ c. buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease bread pans with margarine. Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and baking soda). Add butter and knead together mixture by hand. Stir in raisins and cranberries. Add wet ingredients (honey, buttermilk and beaten egg) to the mixture. Knead until well incorporated. Shape dough into two loaves and place in baking pans. Bake for an hour. Prick bread with a toothpick after an hour. If the toothpick comes out clean, bread is done. Place on a rack to cool for at least three minutes.

Irish scallop pie recipe

If scallops are in season, buy the large ones (about 2-3 per person). Prepare mashed potatoes in advance—about one pound for every three guests.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 12 large scallops cut into halves
  • 7 large mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 ½ cups of milk
  • 1 1/3 lbs. mashed potatoes

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly sauté the scallops and mushrooms in butter and white wine. Remove the scallops from the pan and add the flour gradually to the remaining mushrooms and sauce. Stir to prevent lumps. Slowly add milk to thicken. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and mix in the scallops, cut into halves. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top and dot with more butter or spray with liquid margarine. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until brown.

Traditional Irish boxty recipe

(adapted from “boxty recipe” from cdkitchen.com)

These potato pancakes make a great side dish for corned beef and cabbage or they can be served with other meats such as bacon or sausage. As with the Irish scallop pie, prepare a mound of mashed potatoes in advance.

Ingredients (serves 8):

  • 1 c. raw potatoes grated
  • 1 c. mashed potatoes
  • 1 c. unbleached flour
  • 1 c. milk or butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste

Mix grated and mashed potatoes. Add flour, salt, and pepper to the mixture. Mix in two eggs and enough milk so the batter can ooze off the spoon onto a hot griddle. You may have to practice in advance to get the consistency just right.

Cook the pancakes for about three minutes on each side. Serve hot with apple sauce and sour cream.

St Pattys Day food

While many Irish foods use a base of potatoes, cabbage, and beef, lamb is often used to make an Irish stew. You can prepare a large number of mashed potatoes in advance to serve as a side dish, or quickly fry them with onions while your meat dish is cooking.

Saint Patrick’s Day drinks

No, a case of Coors and a bottle of green food coloring isn’t the best way to impress your Irish friends. Bone up on authentic Irish drinks like Guinness stout, Harp lager, Bushmills whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Crème—and a recipe for real Irish coffee.
A hearty beer is a perfect beverage to accompany all the traditional rich Irish food eaten on St. Patrick’s Day. Although Guinness is a fine Irish stout, purists might resent the bottled version, so don’t hesitate to stock up on other Irish beers, like Harp lager, Murphy’s Irish Amber, or an American microbrew such as Wild Irish Rogue from Oregon.

For guests who aren’t beer drinkers, a good Irish whiskey such as Bushmills or Jameson may do the trick. If you have time to mix drinks, try out this recipe.

Old Mr. Boston’s Irish shillelagh


  • juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 ½ oz. Irish whiskey
  • ½ oz. sloe gin
  • ½ oz. rum

One ounce is equal to one shot of hard alcohol. In a mixer, combine the lemon juice, whiskey, sloe gin, and rum. Shake the ingredients with crushed ice and strain into an old fashioned glass. Add fruit for garnish. Sliced peaches, raspberries or strawberries are recommended.

Green Beer

In America, many pubs and party hosts serve green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. While this practice may be traditional in the US, you probably won’t find green beer in Ireland on any day.

When serving green beer, make sure your glasses are chilled in advance. Put one or two drops of green food coloring into each glass. If your beer-drinking guests are Irish, they’ll probably prefer a room temperature Guinness or other genuine Irish libation.

After Dinner

Bailey’s Irish Cream or Irish Coffee make great dessert drinks any time of the year, but especially on St. Patrick’s Day.

Bailey’s Irish Cream is a rich liqueur that can be served chilled or over ice. If your guests prefer a lighter version, mix about three ounces of it with a splash of club soda.

For a satisfying after-dinner drink, serve a shot of Bailey’s in a cup of rich, dark cappuccino.

Irish coffee is a must for after-dinner drinks on St. Patrick’s Day. Heat a stemmed whiskey glass and pour in a shot of Irish whiskey. Dissolve three sugar cubes in the whiskey and fill the glass with hot, black coffee. Top with a dollop of whipping cream. Some versions of Irish coffee also suggest adding a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Alcohol-free drinks

If some of your guests prefer to avoid alcohol or if you want a festive drink for the kids, offer a cup of hot tea. Barry’s, Lyons and Bewley’s are traditional Irish favorites.

While children may not be so impressed by tea, they will likely revel in green drinks. Limeade made with fresh-squeezed limes is a delicious and healthy thirst quencher. You can also make a green punch by mixing green Kool-Aid with soda such as 7-Up or Sprite.

For dessert, prepare milkshakes made with milk and lime sherbet. The trick is to give the drink a fancy name, such as “Irish Luck Shake” or “Leprechaun Latte.” Stock up on green straws or swizzle sticks topped with shamrocks or other Irish symbols.

Float made with some type of green ice cream is another creative approach to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Mint-flavored ice cream should work well. Avoid pistachio ice cream or anything with nuts if you’re serving it to small children as nuts are a choking hazard.

What to do on St Patrick’s Day?

If you’re planning a trip in March, why not take in the four-day festival planned around St Patrick’s Day 2020 Dublin? If you don’t have time for a trip abroad, consider celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Boston, New York or Montreal. Bundle up in green woolen clothing and prepare to dance and sing with the millions of others who celebrate the wearing o’ the green.
Where’s one of the most popular places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Why, anywhere there’s a parade, of course.

Did you know that almost fifty American cities have a parade on St. Patrick’s Day? Making your way to a major city with a parade guarantees that you’ll have a good time, particularly since so many fun activities are planned on parade day. Check dates before you go; many cities celebrate with a parade the weekend before or after March 17th.

St. Patrick’s Day: after hours

Of course, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland maybe just a dream for now. Meanwhile, plan a fun evening of traditional St. Patrick’s Day activities, even if all you start with is a few pints after work.

Irish pubs are quite popular and widespread these days, so you will likely have no trouble finding a pub called “O’Malley’s” or “The Celtic Tavern” that will be all decked out for St. Patrick’s Day. The problem is that most Irish pubs are sure to be packed to the rafters on March 17. So, be prepared to wait in line just to get in and listen to the Irish musicians playing “Black Velvet Band.”

If lines and crowded pubs are not your scenes, you can always host your own festivities. A few cases of beer, a large pot of hearty Irish stew and a few loaves of authentic soda bread are all you need to set the tone. DĂ©cor items are available in many party shops in the month preceding the 17th of March.

Safe celebrations

Whatever you decide to do on St. Patrick’s Day, remember to invite a designated driver who can get you home safely. The St. Patrick’s Day events organizers in Dublin, Ireland are increasingly concerned about public intoxication, particularly among teenagers.

While all are welcome to join in the merriment, remember that celebrating St. Patrick’s Day can be fun without a booze binge.

Here’s to your health: “Sláinte Mhath!”


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