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St. Patrick's Day Traditions You Must Follow in America!

by Note with Love Team - Mar 14, 2024
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Every year on March 17, Ireland celebrates St. Patrick's Day as a cultural and religious celebration. The day honors St. Patrick, one of Ireland's patron saints, but it has developed into a worldwide celebration, with festivities taking place in many nations, including the United States, where it is widely observed. It's a day dedicated to honoring everything Irish, including green beer, parades, wearing emerald, and traditional Irish meals and scoops.

Feast of Saint Patrick, (St) Paddy's Day, (St) Patty's Day are other common terms used to refer the Saint Patrick's day. 

Before we get into the St. Patrick's Day traditions that you must follow in America, let's know about the day itself more.

St. Patrick's day: what, why and when?

St. Patrick's Day, named after Ireland's patron saint, Saint Patrick, is observed annually on March 17th.

St. Patrick's Day dates back to the early 17th century when the Catholic Church designated March 17th as a day to honor St. Patrick for introducing Christianity to Ireland. Although the celebration has developed into a lavish public celebration with parades, festivals, and other activities, it used to be just a holy day for Irish Catholics who would attend mass in the morning and have simple feasts in the afternoon. 

Where did it start?

The celebration of St. Patrick's Day as a religious holiday in Ireland is thought to have started as a religious feast day in the 9th or 10th century.

Where was St. Patrick's day first celebrated in America?

In 1737, a group of Irish immigrants in Boston, held the first Saint Patrick's Day celebration in America. 

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in New York City in 1762 and become a yearly custom in many American cities afterward.

How did St. Patrick's day become a celebration in the US?

In the beginning, the day was primarily observed in Irish-American neighborhoods in big cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago. However, it spread across the country in the middle of the 19th century after a large influx of Irish immigrants came to the nation to escape the mass starvation and economic hardship in Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day is not a federal holiday in the United States. It is observed as a legal holiday only in Savannah, Georgia, and Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Be it a holiday or not, the day is observed with parades, carnivals, and other events in many American towns and areas that showcase Irish music, dance, food, and drink. 

Deep rooted Traditions of St. Patrick's Day in USA

Aside from Ireland, America appears to be the most enthusiastic about St. Patrick's Day. If we're being completely honest, it was America, not the Irish, who brought St. Patrick's Day as we know it to the rest of the world. They have a ton of traditions for marking this day, some of which are indigenous to Ireland and others that are not even found there. Here's a simple infographic on traditions of St. Patrick's day in the US.

St. Patrick’s Day symbol: The shamrock

Ireland's national flower, the shamrock, is a young sprig and one of the most used key signs of St. Patrick's Day. The term "shamrock" literally means "young clover." In an effort to convert the Irish to Christianity, St. Patrick is said to have explained the holy trinity using the shamrock, with each leaf representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On St. Patty's Day, it's common to see people sporting shamrock paints or putting them on display in their residences and places of business.

Traditional Irish cuisine

Having traditional Irish cuisines such as corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, or Irish soda bread is an important part of Saint Patrick's Day celebrations. The dish of corned beef and cabbage was originally created in America. Instead of ham, as in Ireland, eating corned beef was a less expensive option for immigrants in America.

Religious services

Religious services are held in honor of St. Patrick's Day, which has religious roots and is observed by Catholics all over the world. On this day, many churches hold special services and masses in America.

Irish music performed live

In the US, many bars and pubs host live music events for St. Patrick's Day celebrations. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from traditional Irish folk music to contemporary renditions of Irish rock and pop.

Parades

St. Patrick's Day parades are held in many cities and towns throughout the United States. These parades are a fun way to celebrate the holiday with your neighborhood with vibrant floats, marching bands, and other performers.

Wearing green

Wearing green clothing or accessories, such as a green shirt, socks, or hat, is a popular St. Patrick's Day tradition.

  • Why wear green on St. Patrick's day?

There are several different theories as to why people wear green on St. Patrick's Day. One is that it's a way to celebrate Irish heritage since green has long been linked to Ireland.

Another lore is that wearing green supposedly makes you invisible to leprechauns, who are rumored to pinch anyone they catch sight of.

Drinking green beer or Irish whiskey

Green beer is a traditional drink served on St. Patrick's Day in many pubs and eateries. When people want to toast something special, Irish whiskey is a common choice.

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Many American cities and towns hold St. Patrick's Day parades as part of a time-honored tradition. People of all ages and backgrounds participate in these grand processions, distinguished by marching bands, a vibrant assortment of floats, and other performers.

Photo by Dominick Totino on iloveny

A notable example is the grand parade that takes place in New York City every year. It attracts over two million spectators and has over 150,000 marchers, including bagpipers, dancers, and military units.

Besides that, the St. Patrick's Day parade in Philadelphia is one of the largest in the country, taking place the day before St. Patrick's Day since 1771. The numerous other smaller parades held across the nation exhibit no less fervor and passion for the occasion.

Whether you're a parade goer in green or just cheering from the sidelines, the atmosphere is upbeat and emerald filled, making it a fun and spirited way to commemorate the day and Irish heritage.

Bonus: America’s Not So Irish traditions of St. Patrick's day 

Pinching people

In the US, it has started to become customary in some places to pinch people on St. Patrick's Day who are not wearing green attire, which is a fun way to remind people to wear green, a symbol of Ireland and St. Patrick's Day. You won't find this tradition even in Ireland.

Shamrock Shake

Photo on Delish

Since its introduction in the US in 1970, McDonald's artificially green, mint-flavored Shamrock Shakes have become a cult favorite on every Saint Patrick's Day.

Irish Car Bombs

Photo on The Irish Road Trip

"Irish Car Bombs" are not consumed in Ireland. It was created in America and includes Irish products like Baileys, Jameson whiskey, and Guinness. It is not that had to make though. If you are looking for a good recipe here is one you should try.

According to Eater, the name's controversial connotation refers to the Irish Troubles, a time of brutal warfare and bombings that claimed numerous lives.

Greening the rivers

Photo on Ingredi

Since 1962, greening the Chicago River has been a very American tradition. However, Ireland does not dye its rivers green. Besides, Chicago many other cities such as San Antonio, Savannah etc. dye their rivers green in the spirit of St. Patrick's day.

Leprechaun, good luck, gold coins, shamrocks, rainbows - how did all these become associated with St. Patrick's day?

Irish heritage and traditions are deeply ingrained in St. Patrick's Day, and many of the symbols used to mark the occasion have their origins in Irish mythology and history.

Leprechauns: These diminutive mythical beings are thought to be the keeper of the gold-filled pot at the end of the rainbow. Only in the 20th century did they start to be widely connected to St. Patrick's Day.

Good fortune: Luck plays a significant role in Irish folklore, and many people connect St. Patrick's Day with luck and fortune.

Gold coins: Gold coins are often used as a metaphor for wealth and prosperity. They are also strongly tied to the fabled leprechaun-guarded pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Shamrocks: A three-leafed clover, shamrocks are used as a symbol of Ireland. According to legend, it was used as a metaphor by St. Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish people.

Rainbows: Rainbows, which are associated with leprechauns and the pot of gold, are also thought to be a symbol of hope and good fortune.

St. Patrick's day has become a day of celebrating Irish traditions blended with American ones. The festivities multiply when it is shared with friends and family. So wish them happy  St. Patrick's day. Here are some messages to get you started!

Frequently Asked Questions

When is St. Patrick's day in 2024?

St. Patrick's day is on March 17, 2024 (Sunday).

Do people really drink green beer on St. Patrick's Day?

Green beer is a popular beverage in the United States. However, it is not widely consumed in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day.

Is soda bread a traditional St. Patrick's Day food?

In the United States? Yes. However, in Ireland, people eat soda bread all year long, not just on St. Patrick's Day.

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