From feasting on traditional Irish foods to downing green-coloured drinks, there are quite a few St. Patrick’s Day traditions that numerous countries around the world engage in on this festive day.
The holiday, which originally celebrated Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, now serves as a massive, worldwide celebration of the Irish culture and heritage in general. But, do they celebrate it the same in Ireland as they do in other large Irish communities around the world such as Boston and Philadelphia? Great question!
We took a dive into some of the world’s most well-known St. Patrick’s Day traditions and even a few of the lesser-known ones to bring you a list of the most unique traditions around the world. Here’s some interesting insight into why people do what they do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th around the world.
St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
1. Breaking Lent To Indulge In Food & Drink
It’s no secret that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most alcohol-filled holidays there is. And, it’s due to the fact that it began as a day of indulgence. Seeing as it’s right in the middle of Lent, most Catholics normally had to follow strict food and alcohol consumption restrictions. St. Patrick’s Day, however, is the one day where they can actually indulge (hence the tendency to perhaps overdo it a bit). Go crazy with some Guinness or Baileys for the special day.
2. What’s The Deal With All The Guinness?
As mentioned, St. Patrick’s Day traditions include lots of drinking. And, we get it. It’s the one day where you can break out of all of the restrictions typical of Lent. Why not enjoy the chance to indulge? And boy do the people indulge. Drinking a Guinness is pretty standard. And, it’s probably why you’ll find that on March 17th each year, people consume nearly 13 million pints of Guinness worldwide.
3. Shamrocks As A Sign Of Defiance
During the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, the British were trying hard to suppress Gaelic culture. After being forced to hide or deny their Catholic faith, local Irish teachers had to rely on the shamrock as a symbol of the Christian Holy Trinity. Supposedly, wearing a shamrock also showed Irish defiance against the British ruling class. But, historians recently came out saying that it’s more likely that the shamrock tradition came from the act of “drowning the shamrock,” which consisted of throwing it into a glass of whiskey before drinking it.
4. Parades To Celebrate Irish Immigrants
You’ll find that the world’s best St. Patrick’s Day parades, outside of Ireland, are in the United States. And, it’s got a lot to do with the fact that you’ll find lots of Irish immigrants in numerous communities around the country. New York City actually hosted the first St. Patrick’s Day parade way back in 1762, before the country even gained its independence. While they’re fun-filled, lively affairs, they were also used to demonstrate a sense of pride in their Irish heritage and culture.
5. Painting The Town Green
While people nowadays associate St. Patrick’s Day with the colour green, few know that the colour associated with Saint Patrick was actually blue. However, that doesn’t stop from towns and individuals turning everything green each year on March 17th. It’s customary to wear green to avoid pinching. And, cities like Chicago even turn the local river green for the big day. A six-person boat crew heads out onto the river to shake in some orange powder and voila.
6. Corned Beef Is More American Than Irish
While not directly from Ireland, the St. Patrick’s Day traditions surrounding eating corned beef and cabbage is still an Irish-American tradition that’s been going on for centuries. Seeing as most Irish immigrants who arrived in America in the 19th century were fairly poor, the only kind of meat they could tend to afford was corned beef. And, cabbage was one of the only fresh spring vegetables available.
7. Not Everbody’s Got The Day Off
St. Patrick’s Day is only a public holiday in a few countries. Obviously, it’s a day off for those in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. But, governmental employees in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as citizens in the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat, get the day off too. It’s, unfortunately, not a full day off from work or school even in the United States where you’ll find large Irish communities. Guess they don’t really have the luck of the Irish.