In case you didn’t know, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of the island of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to these shores in the fifth century. He also banished all the snakes from the land, because why else would there be no snakes here? We celebrate Saint Patrick and all things Irish on 17th March, widely considered to be his date of death. Many countries celebrate their national days with pomp and ceremony, but Saint Patrick’s Day is marked in countries around the world, not least of all in the United States, where over 10% of the population report Irish ancestry.
So what’s the difference between how we celebrate Paddy’s Day in Ireland and the rest of the world? A lot of the traditions are the same but some are surprisingly different.
We Get a Day Off Work
17th March is a public holiday in both the Republic and Northern Ireland. If the day falls on a weekend, as it does this year on a Saturday, it gets shifted to the following Monday, so we are always ensured a day off to celebrate! Of course, many people still have to work but the day is officially a public holiday, with most 9-5 jobs closed.
We Watch or Take Part in Parades
Paddy’s Day parades are a far-reaching tradition with lots of towns and cities globally taking part. In Ireland, regional parades typically feature community clubs and societies, with local children showcasing talents including Irish dancing. The parade in Dublin city is televised for all to watch, and attracts many bands and clubs from all over the world.
As much as I despise the ‘drunken Irish’ stereotype, we don’t do anything to quash it on Paddy’s Day. Pubs are packed, not only with locals on a day off from work, but also tourists who flock to Ireland to experience the festivities and help to drink the 13 million pints of Guinness consumed worldwide on 17th March.
We Wear Shamrock
The three-leafed sprig has become synonymous with our patron saint, and indeed with Ireland. Saint Patrick used the plant as a teaching tool, with the three leaves representing the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These days, many people will pin a bunch of the leaves to their jacket, or even have a shamrock painted on their faces or adorning their clothes.
We Paint the Town Green
The so-called ‘Global Greening‘ is a relatively new tradition that started in Sydney and Auckland in 2010. We are happy to partake on the Emerald Isle, with well-known landmarks including Trinity College Dublin, Christ Church Cathedral and the Convention Centre Dublin illuminated in green for the day. In 2017, 295 landmarks across 44 countries were turned green on 17th March, a testament to how widespread the global Irish community is.
We Don’t Turn Any Rivers Green
This seems to be a uniquely Chicago thing. The river is dyed green by the Chicago Plumbers Union Local 130 using a type of food colouring and will remain green for about 5 hours. They really go all out for Paddy’s Day there.
We Don’t Pinch People Not Wearing Green
This has always been such a weird ‘tradition’ to me and I can tell you now, it is not something we do in Ireland! The idea is if you dare not to wear something green on Paddy’s Day, you are fair game to be pinched by anyone, even strangers. I did a little searching around to try to find out the origins of this and while there doesn’t appear to be a definite answer, I did find this article which calls it ‘an entirely American tradition’, which probably originated in the 1700s.
We Don’t Call it St Patty’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day, Patrick’s Day, Paddy’s Day are all acceptable, but you will never hear an Irish person in Ireland referring to the 17th March as ‘St Patty’s Day’. Patty is a woman’s name (short for Patricia). The shortened version of Patrick is ‘Paddy’, hence ‘Paddy’s Day’. Just trust the Irish on this one.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!
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