The Customs and Traditions of St. Patrick’s Day

By Caroline Guerin

Falling on the 17th of March, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious and public holiday in Ireland. It has come to symbolise everything it means to be Irish, a day for people to embrace and celebrate their Irish heritage through music, language and general high spirits. The sometimes hedonistic nature of the festival has made St. Patrick’s Day an occasion for licenced misbehaviour. This is not necessarily a modern trait. It falls in the middle of Lent, and was traditionally seen as a break from the austerity of the fasting undertaken during this period. Even children were allowed to break their fast and enjoy sweet things for the last time before Easter.

‘Drowning the shamrock’ is a centuries-old tradition that was practiced on St. Patrick’s Day. According to folk history, Patrick used a three-leafed clover to teach the pagan Irish about the Holy Trinity. Irish people are depicted as wearing bunches of shamrocks on their hats or lapels to commemorate the saint. It was the custom to place this clump of shamrock into the final drink of the day. The shamrock was them plucked from the bottom of the glass and thrown over the left shoulder.

St. Patrick’s Day is an ideal opportunity to speak a little Irish. Why not use these phrases this St. Patrick’s Day? It might be the excuse you need to embark on the adventure of learning the Irish language!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!   
‘Happy St. Patrick’s Day!’

Sláinte mhaith!

An mbeidh tú ag fliuchadh na seamróige inniu?
on meg too eg flyukh-AH na sham-ROH-GAH inn-YOO
‘Will you be drowning the shamrock today?’

Cá bhfuil Paráid na Féile Pádraig?
kaw wil par-AWD na FAY-LA PAW-RIG
‘Where is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade?’

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