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St. Patrick’s Day

Authored by Rex Cleaver
Published on 17th March, 2023 2 min read

St. Patrick’s Day

Image of Irish flags being held up.

Today (17/03/2023) marks Saint Patrick’s Day, Lá Fhéile Pádraig in Irish, a cultural and religious celebration held annually to celebrate Ireland’s foremost patron saint.

The 17th of March was chosen as the traditionally recognised death date of Saint Patrick (c.385 – 461). Saint Patrick was a Romano-British Christian Bishop whose missionary efforts to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity were allegorised in the famous folklore tale that saw the saint driving the ‘snakes’ out of Ireland. Legend has it that Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock to share information about the Holy Trinity.

In the 9th century, Saint Patrick’s Feast Days were already being celebrated by the Irish in Europe. However, it was not until the 17th century that this day became a holy day of obligation for Catholics in Ireland. In 1903 the 17th of March became a bank holiday in Ireland.

Historically, the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, this has helped fuel the contemporary perception of Saint Patrick’s Day as a festival intrinsically linked with the consumption of alcohol. In recent years, celebrations have become more widespread but also more secular. Some have argued that Saint Patrick’s Day has lost its traditional religious meaning and instead fuels negative stereotypes of Ireland. 

Modern celebrations are inspired by a vast and proud diaspora, they include public parades and festivals, traditional Irish music sessions (céilithe), and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.

Saint Patrick's Day is now celebrated in more countries than any other national festival, with festivities held in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. Since 2010, over 300 famous landmarks across 50 countries have been lit green on Saint Patrick's Day as part of Tourism Ireland's "Global Greening Initiative". Officials in Chicago have taken this sentiment quite literally where, since 1962, they have annually dyed the river green. 

From all of us at the British Online Archives, Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit! Happy Saint Patricks Day!

Authored by Rex Cleaver

Rex Cleaver

Rex is an Editorial Assistant at British Online Archives

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Notable Days


The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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