History & Lore
The History of St. Patrick's Day
In the past, St. Patrick's Day has been a much more sombre occasion compared to today's beer-filled, rollicking celebrations. In fact, originally a religious holiday, St. Patrick's Day was one of the only times pubs could be found closed across Ireland. Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who lived from the end of the 4th century until the second half of the 5th century, is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and St. Patrick's Day (March 17) marks the anniversary of his death. Traditionally, the holiday has been a time for spiritual renewal and family gatherings.
It wasn't until 1995 that the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Now, close to one million people take part in Ireland's grand, five-day St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin. Following suit, Irish communities around the globe organize their own celebrations featuring parades, lots of green beer and everything Irish.
Did you know?
Saint Patrick used the three-leafed clover (or shamrock) to explain the holy Trinity and cleansed Ireland of snakes by driving them into the sea with his staff (or shillelagh). To this day, shamrocks and shillelaghs are well known symbols of St. Patrick's Day.
The original colour of St. Patrick's Day was not green, but blue. It wasn't until the 19th century that green became Ireland's national colour and eventually the colour of St. Patrick's Day because of its association with the shamrock, springtime and the Emerald Isle.
Although St. Patrick's Day falls during the Christian season of Lent, Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat are waived so those celebrating the holiday can feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
Dublin's first St. Patrick's Festival was held in 1996 and was celebrated only on the day. In 1997 it became a three-day event; in 2000 a four-day event; and in 2006 a five-day event.
Irish culture is based on a rich tradition of myths and legends. Check out these links to learn more about the magical Emerald Isle:
Hidden Ireland: A Guide to Fairies, Leprechauns & More
Historical Places to Visit In Ireland
The Blarney Stone
Irish Culture & Customs