18 St. Patrick's Day Facts to Celebrate Irish Heritage & Culture

Celebrate Irish culture by learning about the origins of St. Paddy's Day

Published January 26, 2023
Clover head decoration on head of girl close-up. Saint Patrick day, parade in the city

March 17th is the day of green, shamrocks, and leprechauns. But St. Patrick's Day is so much more than a color, and the many symbols have deeper meaning. Explore these cool facts about St. Patrick's day and celebrate with a whole new perspective.

Saint Patrick Was a Hero

Saint Patrick, called Maewyn Succat before his priesthood, is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. Originally from Britain, he arrived in Ireland after being kidnapped by pirates and spent four years as a slave until escaping at 22. During his lonely exile, he found God to be his source of comfort, finally feeling a connection to his mother's Christian beliefs. When he reunited with his family, he turned his new-found faith into a lifetime pursuit as a priest.

March 17th Is a Day of Memorial

The day we typically recognize as St. Patrick's Day is considered the day of the saint's death, thought to have taken place between 461-493 C.E. Various sources suggest he was between 71 and 77 years old at the time of his death, though there are some who insist he may have been close to 100. Though the details of his death aren't entirely clear, it is thought that he longed to return to Ireland before his passing and did so by living out his last days in Downpatrick, a town in Northern Ireland.

Maybe Blue Should Keep the Pinches Away

St. Patrick's Day party decor, clothing, and even foods all sport the bright green associated with the holiday. There are even rivers dyed green for the celebration. But, many experts assert that blue, specifically sky blue, is the color that should be associated with the holiday. Early depictions of Saint Patrick show him wearing a soft shade of blue. Blue is also associated with Irish mythology and culture. Experts suggest blue was the original color that celebrated the saint, but the Irish Rebellion of 1798 ushered in using the green that is still recognized today.

Ireland Itself Is Green

Blue may have been the original color associated with the holiday, but green certainly calls to mind many of the attributes of Ireland. It isn't called the Emerald Isle for nothing! Vibrant green countryside that many say is unmet in its beauty covers the country and is more than enough reason to associate the color with Ireland and St. Patrick's Day.

1903 Changed Everything

After St. Patrick's death, March 17th was largely a holy day or religious observation for Catholics. The holiday was already being celebrated by Irish people in other parts of the world by the time Ireland officially declared it a public holiday for the country in 1903, converting it from a day for just honoring the saint to a day of celebrating many things about Irish culture.

The Shamrock Is an Important Symbol

The shamrock symbol is about far more than just luck. Legend tells that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the intricacies of the Holy Trinity during his time spent spreading Christianity throughout Ireland. The three leaves that make up the shamrock would help explain the three persons of the triune God of Christianity.

Shamrocks Differ From Four-leaf Clovers

Detailed close up of Shamrock with blurred green background

Though they are often confused, shamrocks and clovers are entirely different plants. The shamrock, a commonly seen plant, has only three leaves. The rarely seen four-leaf clover sports the extra leaf that makes it lucky, representing faith, hope, love, and success.

The Odds Could Be in Your Favor

Though the chances of finding a four-leaf clover aren't high, they are very possible! The odds of finding a four-leaf clover among the shamrocks are 1 in 10,000. This means that if you look often enough, you will find one of the lucky clovers a few times in a lifetime.

Look Out for Leprechauns

In Irish folk tales, the leprechaun isn't the trustiest pal you can have. Often associated with other mythical creatures like fairies or goblins, leprechauns are said to be quite sneaky and love to stir up mischief. Despite their trouble making, it is still believed that leprechauns bring luck with their pots of gold, and they are recognized as not only a celebratory symbol for St. Patrick's Day but also a symbol of Irish culture.

Leprechauns Started the Pinching Tradition

Ever wondered why you're in danger of being pinched on St. Patrick's Day if you aren't sporting something green? The tradition says that wearing green on the holiday makes you invisible to the leprechauns. If you weren't wearing green, the little creatures could spot you and sneak in a little pinch!

Boston Loves St. Patrick's Day

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Boston holds the title for the highest percentage of people with Irish ancestry in the country. The city hosts one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the U.S. with a typical turnout of roughly 1 million people.

Florida Celebrated First

Some research suggests that St. Augustine, Florida held the first recorded celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the United States. Over 400 years later, St. Augustine still celebrates with a parade full of Irish and Celtic heritage and traditions.

Chicago Flows With Green

Chicago River which is dyed green for St. Patrick's day, Chicago

To celebrate the Irish holiday, Chicago started dyeing the river green in 1962. The beginning of this tradition is said to have occurred when the local plumbers union poured 100 pounds of green dye into the Chicago River. The tradition continues today, as Chicago dyes the river every year on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day.

There Is an Interesting Theory About Snakes in Ireland

Legend tells of Saint Patrick fasting on a hill for 40 days during his time in Ireland teaching about Christianity. After this time of fasting, the story goes snakes attempted to attack the saint. The priest then chased them into the ocean and rid Ireland of snakes for good. Though the story is certainly interesting, experts believe Ireland has never been home to snakes.

Rainbows Have Their Place in the Holiday

Rainbows, often linked to the pots of gold that leprechauns cherish, have a couple of associations with St. Patrick's Day. The rainbow is often depicted alongside other symbols, like the shamrock, leprechaun, and the color green. Many people link the rainbow to the life of Saint Patrick and the work he accomplished in bringing Christianity to the country. Much like the biblical depiction of the rainbow, many people consider it a comforting promise regarding the religious holiday.

Paddy Over Patty

There is ongoing debate over the correct shortening of the holiday's name. Many assert that St. Patty's Day is the correct phrasing. However, given that the Gaelic language, a traditional Irish language, translates Patrick to Padraig, St. Paddy would be the correct shortening of St. Patrick's Day.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Is About Heritage

We often link corned beef and cabbage to the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Ireland. However, history suggests that the tradition of eating this dish on the Irish holiday began in the United States. Some suggest that corned beef and cabbage was a blending of cultures, originating with the corned pork and potatoes that most Irish people were familiar with eating in their homeland.

Drinking Wasn't Always Part of the Holiday

Though the celebrations of today often include alcohol, there was a time when the pubs of Ireland closed in recognition of St. Patrick's Day. Before the 1970s, Irish pubs closed in honor of the holiday. St. Patrick's Day was once observed as a dry holiday, though many considered it a day to take a break from the sobriety practiced during Lent.

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day With Fun Traditions

Now that you know all the details about the March holiday, you can incorporate a few fun traditions into your St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

  • Prepare and enjoy traditional Irish foods or enjoy the Irish-American dish, corned beef and cabbage.
  • Wear lots of green and toss in a touch of blue to pay homage to the original tradition.
  • Learn how to Irish stepdance.
  • Attend a St. Patrick's Day parade.
  • Learn about Irish culture or even plan a trip to Ireland!
  • Learn about Christian and Catholic culture to immerse yourself in what the day originally celebrated.
  • Go searching for four-leaf clovers among the shamrocks.
  • Make crafts depicting leprechauns, rainbows, and shamrocks.
  • Listen to Celtic music.
  • Learn a few Irish words or phrases and their meanings.

Embrace Irish Culture With St. Patrick's Day Facts

Though the celebration originated as a religious holiday, you can still appreciate and learn about Irish culture on St. Patrick's Day. Celebrate in a way feels right for you and share your newfound knowledge about Saint Patrick and Irish culture to let others know why March 17th is an important day worldwide.

18 St. Patrick's Day Facts to Celebrate Irish Heritage & Culture