St Patrick's Day: A Brief History & How To Dress Appropriately

Saint Patrick’s day is a national holiday in Ireland that is now celebrated throughout the world! But just where did this festive celebration come from and why is it so loved by the Irish?

In this article, we will explore the history behind St Patrick’s day celebrations and more exciting St Patrick’s day facts. We’ll also explore just what you should wear to stand out amongst the sea of green you’ll see on March 17th!

Who was Saint Patrick?

Hand holding shamrock

Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland and is the country’s national apostle. Born in Roman Britain, in the 5th Century, he was later kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. For six years, he worked as a herdsman and began to develop his faith.

Saint Patrick was later able to escape and return to Britain but he often dreamed of returning to Ireland. He felt drawn to return to Ireland to help the Irish through the work of God. He went back to Ireland to bring Christianity to its people, traveling the lengths of the country baptizing and confirming with great passion.

After his death, many legends came to fruition about his incredible Christian work. One famous legend dictates that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, using his staff to drive them into the sea. Another tells us how he prayed for food for starving sailors and a herd of pigs appeared before their very eyes.

Stories also explain how Saint Patrick used the shamrock, a symbol of Ireland, to explain the holy trinity to unbelievers. Each leaf on the three-leaf clover represents God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Some legends are even more miraculous. Saint Patrick himself wrote about how he raised people from the dead, even if they had been passed away for a long time. It is claimed that Saint Patrick resurrected as many as 33 men.

How did St Patrick’s day begin?

St Patrick's cathedral

St Patrick’s day has been observed since around the 9th or 10th century. Held on March 17th each year, the St Patrick’s day date holds extreme significance, as it marks the believed date of death of Saint Patrick.

The Irish have celebrated St Patrick’s day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. Created by the Church in 1631, this feast day was set to honor the Patron Saint of Ireland. The holiday falls during the Christian season of Lent and during this time Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived.

Families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate with a feast in the afternoon. The Irish staple meal of bacon and cabbage was typically favored, possibly in connection to the appearance of the herd of pigs. There would be lots of music and dancing to mark the occasion.

Are there any St Patrick’s day traditions?

These customs are still upheld to this day. In Ireland, families will typically get together for the traditional feast. Corned beef, bacon, cabbage, and soda bread make hearty popular meals. St Patrick’s day decorations may be used to decorate the home hosting the meal, including depictions of the iconic shamrock that St Patrick was known for.

St Patrick’s Day celebrations grew bigger and better as time went on. Immigrants to America, in particular, transformed St Patrick’s day into a celebration of all things Irish rather than solely honoring the Patron Saint himself.

Nowadays, plenty of parties and parades are held in celebration of St Patrick. You will find people dressing up as an iconic Irish leprechaun, drinking Guinness, and listening to Irish music at every turn!

One popular custom is known as “drowning the shamrock”. Tales say that Saint Patrick went to a bar and received a glass of Irish whiskey that was only half full. He warned the bartender that the devil comes to the dishonest, and from then on the whiskey glasses were always full to the brim. Aside from just wearing the decorative leaves, at closing time on St Patrick’s night, bartenders will dunk shamrocks into the final glasses of whiskey in an ode to the Saint.

Where was the first St Patrick's day parade?

St Patrick's day parade

One of the most iconic parts of the festivities is the gigantic parades, attended by thousands in cities around the globe.

There is some disagreement on where the first-ever St Patrick’s day parade was held. Both New York and Boston claim that they initiated the traditional parade. New York held a parade of sorts on March 15th 1762. Before then, St Patrick’s day was celebrated through a special Mass on the Catholic feast day, however, on this date, Irish soldiers demonstrated their pride by Marching through Bowling Green in lower Manhattan to honor Saint Patrick himself.

Boston also claims to be the first city to host a St Patrick’s day parade, although their event took place on March 17th 1737. In an exhibit of solidarity among the city’s new Irish immigrants, Boston’s Irish community and the Charitable Irish Society joined together in festivities of their homeland.

Either way, St Patrick’s day celebrations have boomed throughout the globe. Many cities across the US now host their own parades. In fact, Chicago has become famous for dying their river green in observance of St Patrick’s day. You will also find parades and city-wide celebrations in Ireland itself, with cities such as Belfast and Dublin holding annual parades to mark the occasion.

Do I need a special St Patrick’s day outfit?

Men wearing Irish kilts in parade

There are plenty of ways to dress up for St Patrick’s day. From leprechaun costumes and oversized hats to “kiss me, I’m Irish!” t-shirts, there are many novelty items available to get you into the spirit. Many festival-goers wear an element of green, and it has become custom to pinch anyone not wearing the Shamrock shade as a representation of the mischievous leprechauns!

One way to stand out from the crowd is to wear a traditional Irish kilt outfit, especially if you are participating in more formal festivities. In fact, a distinctive green St Patrick tartan was created to commemorate Ireland’s humble saint. This blend of emeralds and fresh greens makes a unique kilt, designed to put you at the front and center of any parade.

You can style an Irish kilt however you like! Pair it with a formal blazer or go slightly less formal with a matching tartan sash. Whichever ensemble you choose, don’t forget your St Patrick’s day accessories! Be sure to wear a shamrock kilt pin to keep your kilt in place. Better yet, carry around a Claddagh hip flask in preparation for the many toasts you’ll make during St Patrick’s day.

How do I say “Happy St Patrick’s day!” in Irish?

St Patrick's day celebrations

Whichever way you choose to celebrate, wishing people a happy St Patrick’s day in Irish is a fun touch that adds to the festivities.

The Irish for “happy St Patrick’s day!” is “Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!”. This means “Happy St Patrick’s day to you!” and it is pronounced “Law leh Paw-drig suna ghit”.

There is also a more religious way of making a greeting on St Patrick’s day. Some people may say “Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig dhuit!”, which means “St Patrick’s Day blessings to you!”. This phrase is pronounced “Ban-ukh-tee nah Fay-leh Paw-drig ghit”.

Final thoughts

St Patrick’s day is a fantastic day to celebrate Gaelic culture, offering plenty of opportunities to make memories that last for a lifetime. From parades to parties, we hope the luck of the Irish is with you wherever you go for St Patrick’s Day 2022!