Irish flag with green hat on it and plastic four leaf clover.

St Patrick’s Day – Friday 17 March

Named after the main patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide, due to the Irish people’s history of migration and the number of people internationally who have Irish heritage. Here is our lowdown on who St Patrick was, what he did, and how this special day is celebrated.

Who was St Patrick?

Historical sources suggest Patrick was not Irish but was born in Britain;  kidnapped by pirates he was held as a slave in Ireland for 6 years, where he was forced to work as a shepherd. Years later he returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.

What did he do?

St Patrick is credited as bringing Christianity to Ireland. Like all saints there is a great deal of lore around St Patrick, some of which is almost certainly not true. One of the most famous myths concerns St Patrick purging Ireland of snakes and driving them into the sea. The fossil record and information on the Irish climate from around that time show there were almost certainly no snake in Ireland in the first place. But it has made for a great myth, and some even better religious images.

How is St Patrick’s Day celebrated?

Originally a religious festival, many people in Ireland will observe the day by attending mass in church. More secular celebrations include eating traditional Irish food (ham or corned beef and cabbage), drinking Guinness (a malt based alcoholic drink), attending parades, and wearing costumes and face paint. The largest St Patrick’s Day parade is held in New York, with 150,000 people participating, and several million attending. The second largest is in Dublin, the capital of Ireland. Some popular costumes include dressing in green, wearing face paint in the shape of a shamrock (a four-leafed clover), and a leprechaun (a bearded Irish fairy).

Manager of the International Advice and Support Team and Irishman, John Killeen is planning a much more sedate evening: ‘There’s a vibrant Irish music scene in Hastings where I live so I’ll be enjoying a traditional Guinness whilst listening to some wonderful live music.’

Sarah Herbert • March 14, 2023

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