Happy St Patricks Day! Six of the best traditions and key facts

Kate Middleton and William send St Patrick's Day message

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Taking place annually on March 17, St Patrick’s Day has been observed as early as the 10th century, however, it is said to have been first officially celebrated in 1631. The celebratory date chosen is believed to be the date of the death of St Patrick – a 5th-century missionary to Ireland, who later served as bishop there. He is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures, due to being credited with bringing Christianity to parts of Ireland and is considered partly responsible for the Christianisation of the Picts and Anglo-Saxons, according to History.com.

St Patrick was never actually canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church due to the era he lived in, however, due to the mass influence he bore on religion in the country, Patrick was likely proclaimed a saint by popular acclaim.

He has been celebrated since and festivities quickly spread across the world too, so the day is now deemed one of the most popular drinking holidays – ranking fourth in America.

The celebration is honoured and observed through a number of traditions, ranging from preparing classic Irish food and parades, to decorating homes with shamrocks and leprechauns.  And whether you’re Irish or not, anyone can enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.

Express.co.uk compiles a few of the key St Patrick’s Day traditions here.

Taking part in a Cèilidh

A Cèilidh is an Irish social gathering centred around dancing to traditional Irish music.

The céilí dances are based on “round dances”, “long dances”, and “quadrilles”, and were said to have been re-established during the Gaelic revival in the twentieth century.

Ireland amasses a large number of musical instruments that often get brought out during these dances. Most commonly, this includes the bodhran, which is a special drum, along with Celtic harps, flutes, fiddles and banjos.

Corned beef and cabbage

This tradition to eat corned beef and cabbage dates all the way back to the middle ages.

In the 19th century, the Irish were known for salted meats, and most were produced for trade.

The salted meats were not always affordable for the poorer Irish folk, so they’d have to switch to cheaper means. The closest and more attainable thing the Irish could get hold of was salt pork, similar to bacon.

When the Irish began migrating to America, salt pork wasn’t readily available and bacon was too expensive during that time period. This led them to turn to corned beef, and it’s been included in traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations ever since.

Symbolic decorations

On St Patrick’s Day, it’s also traditional to decorate areas and homes with Irish-affiliated symbols, such as shamrocks and leprechauns.

Leprechauns are known as mischievous and small supernatural beings in Irish folklore. Now a symbol of good luck, leprechauns are believed to have a pot of gold that can be found only at the end of a rainbow.

Legend says that if you catch a leprechaun, you can force him to tell you where to find his pot of gold.

Shamrocks, also known as three-leaf clovers, have long been an item of Irish iconography, dating all the way back to the 1700s. They are trefoil plants and represent the “rebirth of spring”.

The significance of this as a symbol has been attributed to a number of different ideas. It is said that St Patrick used to use the shamrock’s three leaves to explain the Christian concept of the holy trinity.

It has also been said that shamrocks were a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because its leaves formed a triad – three was a mystical number in the Celtic religion.

Shamrocks are also deemed to be lucky – but only if you find one with four leaves, which are very rare.

Wearing green

If you’re not wearing green, you could run the risk of getting pinched.

It is a peculiar lore, but according to the Independent, the legend comes from the concept that those wearing green – the signature colour for the holiday – are invisible to leprechauns, who enjoy pranks and pinching people.

Religious ceremonies

Due to St Patrick’s strong Christian roots, Roman Catholics are said to celebrate the day with an extravagant meal.

St Patrick’s Day falls in the middle of lent, a period of time that Christians use to fast from specific foods, and this meal works as a break from this.

Catholic churches will also carry out ceremonies to commemorate St Patrick.

Guinness, Guinness, and more Guinness

Irish law stated St Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday between 1903 and 1970, which meant all pubs were to shut on this day.

However, this law was overturned in 1970 and St Patrick’s Day was reclassified as a national holiday, allowing the pubs to reopen and the taps to start flowing again.

Recently hailed the most popular beer in the UK in a survey by YouGov, Guinness is a staple beverage to celebrate the holiday with.

Guinness is a dry stout allegedly originating from Dublin, Ireland, in the 1700s – although rumours are that it actually originated in Wales, contrary to popular belief.

St Patrick’s Day facts

Here are some more St Patrick’s Day facts to take away with you
– Chicago has been dying its river green to commemorate the holiday ever since 1962
– St. Patrick’s Day parades begun in America, not Ireland
– Over 600 stadiums, statues, museums, and towers will light up green on St Patrick’s day, including the Roman Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa
-St Patrick’s name was originally Maewyn Succat
– The St. Patrick’s Day colour used to be blue

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