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Saint Patrick's Day
A stained glass window depicts Saint Patrick dressed in a green robe with a halo about his head, holding a sham rock in his right hand and a staff in his left.
Saint Patrick depicted in a stained glass window at Saint Benin's Church, Ireland
Official name Saint Patrick's Day
Also called
  • Feast of Saint Patrick
  • Patrick's Day
    Lá Fheile Pádraig
  • (St) Paddy's Day
  • (St) Patty's Day
Observed by
Type Ethnic, national, Christian
Significance Feast day of Saint Patrick,
commemoration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland
  • Attending parades
  • attending céilithe
  • wearing shamrocks
  • wearing green
  • drinking Irish beer
  • drinking Irish whiskey
Observances Attending mass or service
Date March 17
Next time 17 March 2025 (2025-03-17)
Frequency Annual

Saint Patrick's Day (also St. Patrick's Day and Paddy's Day) is the feast day of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and a day of cultural and religious celebration for Irish people. It is celebrated on March 17 all over Ireland and everywhere in the world where Irish people or their descendants live. The feasting and celebrations include traditional Irish music, drinking beer, and eating bacon and cabbage. Green is the color associated with Saint Patrick's Day as it is the national color of Ireland. People often wear green on that day or have some type of shamrock on their clothing. A tradition of the day is to pinch those who are not wearing green. The first St. Patrick's Day parade in Ireland was held in Waterford in 1903. New York City has a large parade on Saint Patrick's Day.

Saint Patrick

Irish clover
According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans.

Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Much of what is known about Saint Patrick comes from his book Declaration, which is mostly biographical. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. According to the Declaration, he was kidnapped at the age of sixteen by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. He spent six years there working as a shepherd, and during this time he found God. The Declaration says that God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. After making his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.

According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to tell the pagan Irish about Christ. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelizing in the northern half of Ireland and helped convert thousands to Christianity. Patrick's efforts against the druids were eventually turned into a legend in which he drove "snakes" out of Ireland. Since Ireland never had any snakes, one theory about this story is that God used Saint Patrick to drive the pagan religions out of Ireland.

Tradition holds that he died on March 17, 461, and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew about Patrick and he became Ireland's greatest saint.



St. Patricks Day Parade (2013) In Dublin Was Excellent But The Weather And The Turnout Was Disappointing (8566201364)
A St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin
St Patricks Day Inter Church Procession, Downpatrick, March 2010 (03)
A St. Patrick's Day religious procession in Downpatrick, where Saint Patrick is said to be buried

St. Patrick's Day parades in Ireland began in the late 19th century. A growing sense of nationalism during that time inspired the celebrations.

Because of the importance of the day, the celebrations in Dublin have, since 1996, been extended to a week-long event called St. Patrick's Festival. Activities include a spectacular fireworks display (Skyfest), open-air music, street theatre and the traditional parade. Many Irish people wear a bunch of shamrock on their lapels (the part on each side of a coat or jacket immediately below the collar which is folded back) or hats on this day, while children wear tri-color (green, white, and orange) badges. Girls traditionally wore green ribbons in their hair and many still do.

The largest celebrations in Ireland outside Dublin are in Downpatrick, where Saint Patrick was buried following his death on March 17, 461.

United States

Chicago River dyed green, buildings more prominent
The Chicago River dyed green for Saint Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in the United States were brought by Irish-American immigrants. The first unofficial Saint Patrick's Day celebration took place in New York City on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the British military marched through the city. The smallest parade is said to take place in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the United States; this parade is less than a single city block. Boulder, Colorado claims to have the shortest parade, which is also less than a single city block.

St. Patrick Parade, Fifth Ave., New York 1909
Saint Patrick's Parade on Fifth Avenue, 1909
Civil War steeplechase2
Saint Patrick's Day celebration, Union Army. Irish Brigade holds a steeplechase race on March 17, 1863.

The first public celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in the 13 colonies took place in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. The first Saint Patrick's Day celebrated in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756. Since then, the New York celebration has become the largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the world. Every year more than 150,000 marchers participate. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan. About two million people go to view the parade each year.

The New York parade is moved to the previous Saturday (March 16) in years when March 17 is a Sunday.

Some U.S. cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Others, including Chicago, dye major rivers green. Savannah, Georgia, home of the world's second-largest Saint Patrick's Day parade, dyes its downtown city fountains green.

The longest-running Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in the U.S. are:


St. Patrick's Day Montreal 2007
Montreal hosts one of the longest-running and largest St. Patrick's Day parades in North America.

In Canada, Saint Patrick's Day is an official holiday in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Some groups have tried to make Saint Patrick's Day a federal holiday.

The longest-running Saint Patrick's Day parade in Canada takes place each year in Montreal, where the parade began in 1824.

In Quebec City, there was an annual parade from 1837 to 1926. The Quebec City St. Patrick Parade returned in 2010 after more than 84 years.

There has been a parade held in Toronto since at least 1863. The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team was known as the Toronto St. Patricks from 1919 to 1927 and wore green jerseys. In 1999, when the Maple Leafs played on St. Patrick's Day, they wore green St. Patrick's retro uniforms. A large parade in the city's downtown on the Sunday before March 17 attracts over 100,000 spectators.

Great Britain

St Patrick's Day - Trafalgar Square March 2006
St. Patrick's Day parade in London usually takes place at Trafalgar Square.
St. Patrick's Day festival Coatbridge is celebrated in the Irish descent majority town of Coatbridge in Scotland.

In Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother used to present bowls of shamrock flown over from Ireland to members of the Irish Guards, a regiment in the British Army. The Irish Guards still wear a shamrock that has been flown in from Ireland on this day.

Other events occur in Great Britain as well:

  • Birmingham holds the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in Britain.
  • London holds a parade around the 17th, usually in Trafalgar Square.
  • Liverpool, which has the most Irish residents of any English city, holds a St. Patrick's Day celebration celebrating Irish heritage.
  • Manchester hosts a two-week Irish festival in the weeks before St. Patrick's Day.
  • Horse racing at the Cheltenham Festival attracts large numbers of Irish people and usually takes place near St. Patrick's Day.

Interesting Facts About Saint Patrick's Day

Chicago river on St. Patrick's Day
  • The odds of someone finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000.
  • Leprechauns, tiny Celtic fairies, are usually associated with Saint Patrick's Day.
  • The shamrock, a three-leaf clover, is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity.
  • Nearly one-fourth of the Irish nation emigrated to the United States after the potato famine in Ireland. Initially, the Irish were looked down upon by citizens of the U.S.
  • Corned beef and cabbage, the meal that is associated with St. Patrick's Day, was begun by the poor Irish immigrants in the U.S. Corned beef was cheaper meat than ham, which was eaten in Ireland.
  • Legend says that each leaf of the four-leaf clover has a meaning: luck, love, faith, and hope.
  • Chicago first dyed its river green in 1962.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Día de San Patricio para niños

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