No Leprachauns or Green Beer

St. Patrick's Day in Ireland

Map of Country

Figure 1: The World Factbook. Map of Ireland



The Irish celebration of St. Patrick's Day is two fold; it is Ireland 's national holiday and a religious celebration. The religious celebration carries as much weight in the Irish Catholic Church as do Christmas and Easter. The religious celebration includes attending mass, prayer, pilgrimages, and some observances of Lent. St. Patrick's Day brings the Irish people together with communitas, a strong sense of unity usually dealing with religious celebrations (Turner), and celebrates the island's patron saint, Patrick, who is also a representation of God to the Irish people (MacDonald). St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in Ireland with far less fanfare than in New York and Boston .



Additional Image 1  

Figure 2: St. Patrick Figure 3: Irish flag with shamrock


There is more to St. Patrick's Day in Ireland than meets the eye. The celebration in Ireland is a religious holiday, such as Christmas or Easter. St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in Ireland with much more humility and reverence than in the rest of the world. It dates back thousands of years and celebrates Irish culture, and St. Patrick's legacy, which includes the conversion of the native pagans to Catholicism through his missionary work. Also Ireland 's national holiday, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated around the world and involves the legends and travels of St. Patrick that helped shape the Irish people into what they are today.


Context of Ireland

Ireland is located in Europe, just west of Great Britain in the North Atlantic Ocean. Ireland covers about 5/6 of the island, with the other portion of Northern Ireland belonging to the United Kingdom. Ireland is mostly level and rolling plains enclosed by some rough hills and low mountains in the interior. The island's coast covers 900 miles (about the same as Oxford, Ohio to Boston) and has seaside cliffs along its western coast. The climate is temperate maritime which is altered by the North Atlantic Current, giving Ireland mild winters, cool summers, and keeps it regularly humid (World Factbook).

  Celtic tribes between 600 and 150 B.C first settled Ireland. There were many invasions by the Vikings and Danes until about the twelfth century when English invasions began. The early tribes in Ireland were druids or pagans who spoke Gaelic as their native language. Ireland converted to Catholicism due to much of the missionary work of St. Patrick (Figure 2) in the fifth century with over 90% Roman Catholic today (Catholic Encyclopedia). The Irish and British went through seven centuries of rebellions, cruel repression, and many other conflicts. There was a failed rebellion in 1916, but sparked many years of guerilla warfare that finally resulted in independence from the United Kingdom in 1921. In 1948, Ireland left the British Commonwealth, and later joined the European Community in 1973. The European Community later became the European Union (EU) of which Ireland is currently a member state (World Factbook).



Origins of St. Patrick's Day

The celebration of St. Patrick is recognized on March 17 as the anniversary of the saint's death. The holiday was listed as early as 1607 on the Irish legal calendar as a saint's day. This marked the official recognition of St. Patrick's Day as a holiday, but the origins of the celebration as a holy day remains uncertain. Early forms of this and other saint's days often included pilgrimages to sacred sites, and large celebrations. The importance of St. Patrick's Day was elevated after Patrick was named the patron saint of Ireland (Cronin).




The most visible element of St. Patrick's Day is the shamrock (below). The shamrock is a three leafed plant that St. Patrick used in his sermons to illustrate the Holy Trinity. People display shamrocks on their clothes in the form of pins, stickers, and other decorations. It is also very popular, almost mandatory, to wear green on March 17 in order to celebrate Ireland being the “Emerald Isle” (Cronin). Modern celebrations of St. Patrick's Day across the world have adopted the tradition of drinking beer colored with green dye, not Ireland, however (Gove).






Prognosis for St. Patrick's Day

The celebration is increasing in popularity in Ireland and all over the world. The main reason for the increase in popularity is the Irish take great pride in their nationality, and their faith. A secondary reason for the popularity increase could be the adoption of more American practices in celebrating St. Patrick's Day.



The Irish national holiday of St. Patrick's Day has many cultural and religious aspects. Many people believe the holiday is celebrated in Ireland with great splendor and drunkenness as it is in American cities like New York , Boston , and Chicago . The fact is that the celebration of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is a serious religious holiday and is practiced much the same as Christmas and Easter.


Internet References Cited


Peer-Reviewed References Cited

  • Include five or more references in proper anthropological style.
  • Binchy, Maeve

    2001 A Pint for St. Patrick in the New Ireland . New York Times, March 17: A11.

    Cronin, Mike, and Daryl Adair

              2002 The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick's Day. London :         Routledge

  • Darnton, John

    1995 Catholics and Protestants Parade Together in Ulster for St. Patrick.

    Associated Press, March 18.

    Gove, Alex

               1998 Sober Irishmen. Esquire, March: Issue 3.

  • MacDonald, Margaret, ed.

    1992 The Folklore of World Holidays. London : Gale Research, Inc.

    Turner, Victor

    1982 Religious Celebrations.


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