St Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a national holiday in Ireland and celebrations are held throughout the country, although wherever there are Irish people, or people of Irish origin, there is also likely to be a party!
St Patrick’s feast day was originally a religious festival which fell during Lent, a period of fasting when eating meat was prohibited, and was celebrated with masses, dancing, drinking and feasting of a traditional meal of bacon and cabbage – the meat prohibition was temporarily lifted.
Holding St Patrick’s Day parades is a custom which began in 1737 in Boston, America when people of Irish origin held a modest celebration. Since then the custom has spread to many other places all over the world.
Dublin always holds a St Patrick’s festival around the 17th March (17th-20th March in 2011), which includes a funfair, a circus, concerts, a treasure hunt, street performances, dances, art exhibitions, firework displays, a big parade and a variety of other activities and shows. Each year over a million spectators and some four thousand performers take part in these events.
There is a three-day St Patrick’s festival in Cork involving a big parade, marching bands, dancing, street theatre, concerts and much more, and there are similar events in Limerick. There are also parades on St Patrick’s Day in Wexford, Waterford, Athlone, Tullamore and many other places.
In Northern Ireland the biggest celebrations for St Patrick’s Day happen in Armagh and Downpatrick and run for most of March. There are theatrical performances, music concerts, exhibitions, a big parade and many other events during this time.
The shamrock is a traditional symbol of St Patrick and there’s a tale that the man himself used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity in his sermons. He explained that like the shamrock, the Trinity consists of three separate elements of the same entity, i.e. the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As a result, his followers started wearing shamrocks on 17th March, which is thought to be the day he died.
Many Irish people wear shamrocks in their lapels or hats on St Parick’s Day, and children wear green, white and orange badges to signify the colours of the Irish flag. St Patrick’s Day celebrations have become known as some of the most fun and the most lively in the world, so if you can make your way to Ireland for the festivities this year, make sure you do!