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The History of St. Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick's Day, also called the Feast of Saint Patrick (from Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, "the Day of the Festival of Patrick"), is held annually on 17 March, which is the traditionally accepted date of the death of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385-461), the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick's Day is both a religious holiday, celebrating a Catholic Saint and a popular secular holiday, a celebration of Spring, music, beer, fun, comeraderie and Ireland. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, but also and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general, especially among Irish living outside of Ireland and those of Irish descent.  St. Patrick’s Day is also called the ‘National Hibernian Festival’ or ‘St. Patrick’s festival’

461 - Saint Patrick's death

Saint Patrick died in 461 AD atthe age of 76 in Ireland. He is credited with (largely) bringing Chrisianity to Ireland. For a biography of Saint Patrick, click here.

1600's - Churches establish a holiday

Saint Patrick's Day was first made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century. It was observed by

  • the Catholic Church,
  • the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland)
  • the Eastern Orthodox Church, and
  • the Lutheran Church.

How is the holiday celebrated?

Celebrations usually public parades and festivals, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks (like a 3-leafed-clover). Catholic Christians may also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which could be argued helped to popularized the holiday and further the holiday's tradition of alcohol consumption. Throughout the centuries, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in various ways, including religious services, horse races, banquets, parades, picnics, concerts, dancing and games. It has changed in form and tone over the century.

Where is St. Patrick's Day celebrated?

Saint Patrick's Day is a public holiday in

  • the Republic of Ireland,
  • Northern Ireland,
  • the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and
  • the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat.

It is also popularly but unofficially celebrated around the world among Irish expatriSt. Patrick's day in Moscow, Russiaate and Irish descendent populations, especially in

  • Great Britain,
  • Canada,
  • the United States,
  • Argentina,
  • Australia,
  • New Zealand.
  • and to some extent, in many other countries.

Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Modern celebrations have taken on a populist, secular twist, centering around parades, green beer and partying.

Irish-American Presidents

There are at least 22 United States Presidents who have claimed Irish or Scots-Irish ancestry. Some who have very well-documented genealogy are:

Andrew Jackson, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and John F. Kennedy.

Next: The history of Saint Patrick


  1. - "The Dark Origins Of St. Patrick's Day"
  2. National Geographic
  3. Catholic Online