Saint Patrick’s day: 17th March

What do green, shamrocks, snakes and parades have in common? 

17th March is Saint Patrick’s day, a day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland and Irish culture. 

Saint Patrick: who is he?

Saint Patrick, is the patron saint of Ireland but he was not actually Irish. Historians believe that he was probably born in Wales around 386 AD

When he was 16, he was taken prisoner by some Irish raiders who attacked his family home and estate. They took him to Ireland where he was held captive and treated as a slave. It is believed that during this time as a slave Patrick turned to religion and Christianity for comfort.

After 6 years of captivity Patrick escaped and, after receiving a message from God, began his mission to convert the Irish people to Christianity. He is famous for creating many monasteries, churches, and schools in Ireland.

Snakes & Shamrocks

The symbols of the snake and the shamrock are most associated with St Patrick. Legend says that Saint Patrick used miraculous powers to chase all of the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea. While this is almost certainly only a story, statues and images of Saint Patrick often show him with snakes at his feet. 

The shamrock, a small green plant with three leaves, is also associated with St. Patrick, it is said that he used the three leaves of the plant to explain the holy trinity to the people that he was converting to Christianity. Today people wear bunches of Shamrocks on their clothes to celebrate St.Patrick’s day. 

International popularity and parades

March 17 is a day for very big celebrations in Ireland but also in many other parts of the world especially in places where there are communities of people with Irish ancestors. The most famous celebrations are the St. Patrick’s day parades. People dress up in green and dance or play music. The largest, and oldest, parade is in New York, where 150,000 people participate and millions of people watch on the streets and on TV. The second largest parade is in Dublin, The capital city of Ireland.

A day for green 

The colour most associated with Ireland is green. It rains a lot in Ireland and the countryside is very green. To mark St Patrick’s day people wear green clothes, wear bunches of green shamrocks and often dress up as Leprechauns, mischievous Irish fairies who dress in green from head to toe. Macdonald’s even sells a special green milkshake called a Shamrock Shake

So if you’d like to join in the celebrations this year maybe you could wear something green.

Saint Patrick'S Day, March 17, Leprechaun

Would you like to learn more?

See how St.Patrick’s day is celebrated in Dublin around the world in this YouTube video from Discover Ireland.