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Do they Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Ireland?

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in many countries, especially in the United States. It is a day associated with all things Irish.

  • But many people wonder whether St. Patrick's Day, or Patty's Day, is just a made-up day, a 'Hallmark' holiday.
  • Is St. Patrick's day acknowledged by Irish people living in Ireland?
  • Do people living in Ireland actually celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

The Short Answer - Yes

Yes, St. Patrick's Day originated in Ireland and is celebrated there today, as it has been for hundreds of years. The day commemorates St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

  • Paddy's Day is a national public holiday, and also a bank holiday, in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Almost all businesses are closed in the Republic of Ireland on Saint Patrick's Day, except for hospitality, like restaurants, pubs, etc.
  • Most large stores are closed, but many supermarkets and grocery stores remain open.

How St. Patrick's Day is Celebrated

The main attraction of the St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

  • The St. Patrick Day parade is an import from the USA, where St. Patrick's Day parades have been held since 1947.
  • Since the 1960s, Ireland too has known parades.
  • From mid-morning on March 17th, across the country, the familiar drumbeats begin in towns in villages across the country, from Skibbereen to Sligo, from Clane to Kiltimagh.
  • Somewhere between 50 and 100 parades are held before the day ends.
  • The largest parade in the country is held in Dublin, where around half a million people line the streets.

St. Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland

St. Patrick's Day is a public holiday in Northern Ireland, but it is not a bank holiday. It is celebrated by the nationalist/Catholic community, but not to the extent that is in the Republic.

  • In recent years, parades are becoming more common in Northern Ireland.
  • Belfast now has an annual St. Patrick's parade, something it did not have during the Troubles. Many businesses are closed, but many others are not.
  • The unionist/Protestant community traditionally have not celebrated St. Patrick's Day, regarding it as a nationalist holiday.
  • In recent years attitudes are changing, and some unionists are acknowledging St. Patrick's Day as part of the shared heritage of both communities.
  • Unlike some of the more militaristic parades held in July in Northern Ireland, St. Patrick's Day parades are festive and inclusive in nature and tend to pass off extremely peacefully.

The Wearing of the Green

On St. Patrick's Day, Irish people like to wear green (note: St. Patrick's Day is the only day when Irish people wear green for patriotic reasons -- see myths about Ireland). Younger people like to make a splash, using face paints to create shamrocks, and wave inflatable green hammers, usually purchased at one of the countries many Eurogeneral shops (think dollar stores), at passing parade floats. More mature citizens prefer the old-fashioned but still classy method of pinning some fresh shamrock to a lapel. 

After the Parade

After the parade, many Irish people return to their families, while many people, especially younger people, take to the pubs. Visitor Tip: Alcohol over-consumption, especially by groups of young people, can make the St. Patrick's Day streets quite raucous in some of the bigger towns and cities.

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