How to celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
St Patrick’s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick falls on the 17th of March and is a religious holiday that has been observed for over 1000 years. In this blogpost discover its origins, who St Patrick was, traditional and modern celebrations, and how you can celebrate it too.
Who was St Patrick?
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and the national apostle, he lived during the 5th Century. Born in Roman Britain he was kidnapped at the age of 16 when he was brought to Ireland as a slave. Latterly he escaped Ireland but then returned and was credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was praised for establishing monasteries, churches, and schools across Ireland and became a legendary figure by the end of the 7th Century. As a result, many (potentially false!) legends evolved about him, including that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to represent the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), hence the plant being the symbol of Ireland.
So, what is St Patrick’s Day?
The historic day marks the death of Saint Patrick. Originally celebrated with feasts and religious services the day has evolved to celebrate Irish culture more broadly, both in Ireland and globally. The secularisation of the holiday came about as a result of the mass immigration of Irish people to the United States in the 1700s. Within Ireland itself Saint Patrick’s Day is a bank holiday and is marked by celebrations including prominent displays of the colour green, eating, drinking, religious observations, and many parades.
St Patrick’s Day across the world
Despite not being a legal holiday in most nations outside of Ireland there are notable celebrations across the world that showcase Irish culture. America has marked the occasion since 1601. New York holds the largest St Paddy’s Day parade and Chicago famously dies the Chicago River green to mark the occasion. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers in the US spend over $4 billion on St Patrick’s Day. Within the United Kingdom parades are held up and down the nation and the British Royals traditionally present bowls of shamrocks to members of the Irish Guards, a regiment within the British Army. London also hosts a city center parade.
How can you celebrate?
1. Wear Green
Whether you are joining the seas of green at a parade, or just celebrating privately an easy way to commemorate the occasion is to wear the national colour of Ireland: green! The colour is closely linked to Ireland due to the rich green of its landscapes, hence its nickname ‘the Emerald Isle’.
2. Dive into some traditional Irish food
The traditional meal eaten on St Paddy’s day is boiled bacon, potatoes, and soda bread but this has evolved to include a range of great Irish foods. These include Irish beef stew, Boxty, and Dublin Coddle.
3. Attend a parade in your city
As we mentioned St Patrick’s Day parades are held up and down the country. London is holding their epic parade from 12-6 pm on the 13th March, setting off from Hyde Park along a 1.5-mile route. Birmingham and Manchester also host a weekend full of events from the 17th of March through to Sunday the 20th. These include live Irish music and dance performances alongside food and drink stalls.
4. Keep it local
To accompany your traditional Irish dishes, head to your local and grab a Guinness, Irish Stout, or Irish Coffee. The famous Irish-themed pub chain O'Neills are giving away a free pint - but only if you are lucky enough to be named Patrick or Patricia! Drinking alcohol not your thing? Try making this delicious Irish Stout Chocolate Cake , the stout helps intensify the chocolate flavour, and the small about of alcohol cooks off during the baking process… so you don’t have to worry about the hangover!
5. Immerse yourself in Irish history
Immediately associated with drinking culture and the colour green, it is important to acknowledge the providence of St Patrick’s Day and Ireland more generally. The small island has a rich culture and history, ranging from 4000 BC to very recent political events and you can learn all about it online or in your local library!