St. Patrick's Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the annual feast day of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
Who Was St. Patrick?
Born sometime between 370 and 390 A.D. in Britain, Patrick was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland when he was 16. During his six years of captivity, he worked as a shepherd. His religious visions led him to become a priest, and his missionary work converted the Irish to Christianity, according to the University of Kansas Medical Center Diversity Calendar. (See References 1)
History of Observance
St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1737, when the city of Boston held its first St. Patrick's Day parade, says St-Patricks-Day.com. (See References 2) Many American communities now celebrate March 17 with parades, and some, like Chicago, even dye their river green for the event.
The shamrock is a symbol of St. Patrick's Day, because St. Patrick was said to have used its three leaves to explain the holy Trinity to his converts, comparing them to the father, son and holy spirit. (See References 1) The leprechauns have become associated with St. Patrick's Day because this small mischievous fairy appeared in Irish folklore.
Eating corned beef and cabbage has become a St. Patrick's Day tradition for many. Cabbage has been a staple food of the Irish for centuries, and corned beef was an inexpensive cut of meat popular with New York's Irish immigrants, says History.com. (See References 3) The tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick's Day is practiced in the U.S. only, as the color is thought to be unlucky in Ireland, says AmericanGreetings.com. (See References 4)
National Holiday of Ireland
In Ireland, the day is celebrated more as a religious occasion and holy day. Businesses are closed, and many Irish attend mass on March 17.
- University of Kansas Medical Center: Diversity Calendar - St. Patrick's Day (Irish)
- St-Patricks-Day.com: St. Patrick's Day
- History.com: Saint Patrick's Day - Symbols and Traditions
- AmericanGreetings.com: St. Patrick's Day
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About this Author
Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.