St. Patrick’s Day Countdown
until March 17, 2019
St. Patrick’s Day Facts and History
St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that has religious roots but has become more secular in modern years. The original purpose of the holiday was to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, but it has expanded to become a holiday that honors Irish heritage and culture. While the holiday is not officially recognized in the United States, about half of all Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in some way.
When is St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day is held on March 17 every year. The date coincides with the official feast day of St. Patrick as established by the Catholic Chirch during the early 1600s. Saint Patrick was an Irish bishop who was sold into slavery as a teenager and taken to Ireland. After escaping bondage and becoming a priest, he came back to Ireland to teach the pagans who lived there about God. While the exact date of his death is not known, many religious historians believe that it occurred on March 17 during the 5th century. The date of the feast was chosen based on this assumption.
History of St. Patrick’s Day
The establishment of March 17 as the official feast day of Saint Patrick began in the 17th century. During the 1660s, the feast was made a day of Holy Obligation in Ireland, meaning that Catholics were required to attend mass to honor the saint. The day quickly evolved with parades and festivals being held throughout Ireland. Traditional folk concerts called céilithe were held, and the church lifted the rules against drinking alcohol and dancing during Lent to allow people to celebrate the day fully.
When the Irish began immigrating to the U.S. and Canada during the 18th century, they brought the tradition of St. Patrick’s Day with them. The celebrations were at first confined to Irish communities located in the countries, but gradually, they expanded.
Modern St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the U.S.
Today, even people who are not Irish may join in on the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day. Some common traditions associated with the holiday include:
- Wearing Green: Roughly 80 percent of people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day choose to wear green to mark the occasion. Green is considered the official color of Ireland. In Chicago, 45 pounds of vegetable dye are added to the Chicago River to turn the water green for the day.
- Drinking Beer: Drinking alcohol has become a major part of the festivities for St. Patrick’s Day in the United States. Beer, especially Irish varieties, are enjoyed in bars across the country. Every year, Americans consume 13 million pints of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday is the fourth most popular day for consuming alcohol in the United States.
- Decorations and Cards: Many people choose to decorate their homes or places of business in observance of St. Patrick’s Day. Shamrocks, leprechauns and pots of gold are the most common decorations for the day. Some people send out greeting cards to friends and family for the holiday.