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St. Patrick – Fact and Fiction


St. Patrick was a 5th century saint, who is the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17th, 461 AD, and this date has become one of Ireland’s most widely-known national holidays.

Interestingly, St. Patrick is not actually Irish. He was born in Scotland in the UK to a wealthy family but was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland. He spent the next 6 years looking after sheep and turned to religion for solace. A voice in a dream told him to escape to England on a ship and he was reunited with his family.

He trained to be a priest and later became a bishop, but he had another dream, where he heard the voices of the Irish people begging him to return. He did return to Ireland and travelled the country preaching the word of God and converting people to Christianity.

The Symbol of the 3 Leaf Shamrock

Legend has it that he used the shamrock, which has 3 leaves, as a teaching aid to explain the concept of “The Holy Trinity” – incorporating God the Father, Jesus the Son and The Holy Spirit.

Banishing the Snakes

He is also credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, although scientists are doubtful that we ever had any snakes in the first place.

St. Patrick’s Day Traditions in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s national holiday. It celebrates St. Patrick and takes place on March 17th every year. In Ireland St. Patrick’s Day traditionally was the first public holiday of the year, so it was the perfect chance for Irish people to relax and let their hair down (or dye it green).

1. A chance to break the Lenten Fast

Better still, it gave them a chance to break the “Lenten Fast”, the Christian tradition of emulating Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert, where sweets, chocolate and alcohol are given up until Easter.


Many Irish people dress in green or wear something green on St. Patrick’s Day. A St. Patrick’s Day badge is traditionally worn, along with some shamrock pinned to their lapel and Irish flags are waved at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.


It was traditional to “Drown the Shamrock” at the end of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. This involved putting a piece of shamrock at the bottom of a glass, filling it with alcohol and drinking it as a toast to St. Patrick.


St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations around the World

Few national festivals have captured the world’s imagination like St. Patrick’s Day has. It’s not just a celebration of a saint’s life, it’s a celebration of “Irishness” and every year when Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, the world celebrates with us.

Celebrated in over 200 countries worldwide

About 70 million people worldwide claim Irish heritage and the well-travelled Irish diaspora is one of the reasons St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other festival.


The St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Although the annual parade has become a big part of St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland was not the first country to hold one. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually held in Florida in 1601. Later, Irish soldiers marched in Boston in 1737 and New York in 1762. The Big Apple boasts the biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade each year, attracting 2 million people. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ireland took place in Waterford in 1903 but the first official one didn’t happen until 1931.


The Greening

National monuments and iconic landmarks all over the world are turned green in honour of St. Patrick’s Day in a phenomenon known as “the greening”. Examples include the London Eye, UK, the Empire State Building, New York, Niagara Falls, Canada, The Sydney Opera House, Australia, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy and the Chicago River, which turns green every year in honour of St. Patrick’s Day. Global Greening initiatives were halted in March 2022 as a mark of respect to Ukraine, who had just been invaded.


Shamrock Shake & Green Guinness

No other national festival has a drink adapted just for it. Not content to turn the river green, Chicago was also the first place to turn a milkshake green in 1976, as a charitable initiative. McDonald’s adopted the idea and the legendary Shamrock Shake was born in 1970 and rolled out all over the world. Another famous Irish drink, Guinness, also received the green treatment when it was dyed green in 1914.


Join in the celebrations this St. Patrick’s Day!

Want to join in the celebrations or want to make an Irish friend or loved one feel extra special this St. Patrick’s Day? We’ve got a wonderful selection of Irish gifts and accessories to help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style.


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