March 16, 2017

St Patrick’s Day began as a religious celebration marking the death of Ireland’s patron saint. Yet it has evolved over the years into a global celebration of the Emerald Isle and all things Irish. Here’s a few fun facts about the day when everyone wants to wear a shamrock.

Celebrated the world over…

St Patrick’s Day isn’t just a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland. It’s also a public holiday in Northern Ireland, parts of Canada (Labrador and Newfoundland) and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat.

There are St Patrick’s Day events and festivities across the globe, in particular, in the UK and USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even as far afield as Argentina! This makes it the most widely celebrated public festival, observed in more countries worldwide than any other. Here are some of the most well-known and traditional celebrations outside Ireland.

  • In the UK, the largest St Patrick’s Day parade can be found throughout Birmingham City Centre, in the West Midlands. It is thought to be the third biggest parade globally, coming in after Dublin and New York, famed for its enormous procession throughout Manhattan. Perhaps surprisingly, London has only had a St Patrick’s Day parade since 2002, taking place in Trafalgar Square and becoming increasingly popular.
  • The largest numbers of people with roots in Ireland can be found in Liverpool, in the UK’s North West, which has hosted a parade and a popular programme of cultural events in the city for a long time.
  • Close neighbours in the North West, Manchester, hold a two-week festival celebrating all things Irish in the run up to St Patrick’s Day.
  • Following large numbers of immigrants in the 19th Century, Glasgow is home to a significant Irish population. After considerable regeneration in the city, since 2007, the city has hosted a festival and parade. Elsewhere in Scotland, Coatbridge is known as a town with most of the population’s ancestry hailing from Ireland, hosting a parade of their own and various celebrations for St Patrick’s Day
  • In the USA, several large cities are known for their large parades and celebrations, including New York as one of the most famous, Chicago – where they even dye the river green – and Boston. Canada, close neighbours to North America, also hold well-known celebrations in Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto.

Who was St Patrick?

St Patrick was a Fifth Century bishop and Christian missionary, thought to be from a wealth family in Roman Britain.

The man, the myth, the story...

The popular myth that St Patrick drove snakes from Ireland, often shown in paintings and etchings, refers to his campaigns against the Druids in Ireland. There are many legends around St Patrick and this has built to his reputation and celebration as the most prominent Irish saint.

The symbolism of the shamrock

The shamrock is said to represent the Holy Trinity – the story goes that St Patrick used this to explain Christianity to the pagans living in Ireland. It became a tradition to wear a shamrock on St Patrick’s Day, or to wear green ribbons, badges or clothing, known as “the wearing of the green”. This dates back to the 17th Century.

Boozy beginnings

The popular tradition of enjoying a few alcoholic drinks on the day came from the old Christian tradition of lifting the restrictions of Lent to celebrate this important day in the religious calendar with feasts, including alcohol.

The best ways to celebrate

Traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations include public processions, parties, dances, feasts and banquets, and enjoying an Irish tipple or two: whisky, Guinness, beer, or cider being the most popular choices. There are also church services and local gatherings to mark the occasion.

Time for tea, the Irish way?

Per capita, Ireland makes up the third biggest nation of tea drinkers in the world – in fact, the Irish drink more tea than China or England. After reading these tea facts in The Irish Times, we pondered this surprising news, in our #foodforthought column. Why not celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a nice cup of tea? We suggest a nice, strong brew – English Breakfast No. 27 should hit the spot.

Irish Coffee?

Or if you’re a coffee drinker, you may feel inspired after Irish Coffee Day, which took place on 25th January – why not try a nice, silky Barista Italian Blend coffee with a tot of the finest Irish Whisky and cool, smooth cream for the perfect Irish Coffee?

Sláinte - Irish! for Good Health or Cheers!

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