St. Patrick’s Day, or “St. Paddy’s” as it is also known, is one of the most important days in the Irish calendar. Millions of Irish people around the world celebrate it every year – and people who feel connected to Irish culture in some way. However, very few of them know why March 17th is celebrated with parades and music. An overview of the historical background, customs, traditions and celebrations.

Actually, St. Patrick’s Day is not a day celebrating a special event, but a day of remembrance in honor of an Irish Catholic national saint. It is believed that Bishop Patrick of Ireland was the first Christian missionary to land on the Emerald Isle in the fifth century. He had previously come to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16, fled a little later and returned years later. March 17, 461 is the day of his death according to the “Encyclopedia Britannica”.

Some historians doubt that the revered person St. Patrick was just a single person. Alternatively, the legend of the patron saint could combine the qualities of two individuals. March 17th is now a public holiday not only in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but also in the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat and in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. Since last year there has also been the lively get-together that makes “St. Paddy’s” worldwide and the parade on the streets of Dublin. In 2020 and 2021 the celebrations were canceled due to the corona pandemic.

In the country where Saint Patrick worked, March 17 was originally only celebrated with church services and smaller celebrations. Irish emigrants first turned it into a day, especially in the USA, on which Irish culture is celebrated exuberantly – probably due to a longing for the old homeland. This year US President Joe Biden will receive Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House in Washington. The US President’s family also has Irish roots, which Biden regularly emphasizes.

Expensive parades are traditionally organized in towns with a high proportion of Irish immigrants. The first was in Boston in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. Chicago has also long been a center of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The Chicago River has been colored green there since 1962. A spectacle for which numerous tourists come every year. In addition to Boston, New York and Chicago, the world’s biggest celebrations tend to take place in Dublin, New Orleans, Manchester, Savannah and Munich. There has been a parade in the Bavarian state capital since 1996, and many landmarks are also illuminated in green.

The color green is the central element of “St. Paddy’s”. Those celebrating the day often wear green clothes and hats, and a leprechaun figurine or a shamrock, the Irish national plant, on their lapels. However, this was not always the case, because in the past, the commemoration day was not associated with green, but with blue. A custom that has long been forgotten. Instead, these days even beer – arguably the most consumed drink on March 17th – is dyed green to celebrate Irish culture. It is often paired with a meal of corned beef and cabbage.

Wherever you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, it’s guaranteed to be (wet) happy – and loud. Irish culture has always been closely linked to music, which is why traditional artists such as The Chieftains (“The Long Black Veil”) have become an integral part of every Irish pub. Typical instruments on which Irish folk songs are played are the fiddle, bagpipes, tin whistle and a flat drum.