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St. Patrick's Day: History, Celebrations, and Leprechauns

Updated on March 11, 2013

Around this time of year, particularly in March, millions and millions of people are getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The misconceptions about St. Patrick's Day are that it deals with wearing green, leprechauns and pots of gold. The history behind St Patrick's Day begins with a saint by the name of Saint Patrick. He was the apostle of Ireland and he lived during the fifth century. Originally born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave, when he was sixteen. He escaped, returned to Ireland, and spread Christianity to the people. Centuries after his death, his life and myths about what he did for the people became apart of the Irish culture. One myth is that he spoke of the Holy Trinity using the three leaves of the Irish clover, the shamrock.

In Ireland, the people would participate in the Roman Chatholic day of St. Patrick by having a feast on March 17. However, the first parade that was on St. Patrick's Day too place in the United States but not in Ireland. The first parade was held on March 17, 1762 in New York by the English military who marched through the streets to music. Over the next few years, American immigrants would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums. In 1848, societies decided to unite parades to make one official St. Patrick's Day Parade. In New York, the St. Patrick's Day parade that they have annually is the oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States. In 1850, Irish immigrants were seen and sometimes cartoonized as drunken monkeys. This is due to their inability to get work at the time, uneducated, poor, practicing their heritage, and because Americans weren't able to understand their customs, beliefs, norms, values, and religion. After a while, the American Irish realized that they were powerful in numbers and that meant that their votes counted a lot in elections. After a while, their customs and religions were accepted by society because of this and because President Harry Truman attended St. Patrick's Day parade.


In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day was originally seen as a religious occasion. Due to this mindset, there were laws that all pubs were to be closed on March 17. They lasted up until the 1970s up until 1995 when the Irish government used the interest of St. Patrick's Day to bring in tourism and to showcase Ireland and the Irish culture to the rest of the world. On a yearly basis, about 1 million people travel to Ireland and take part in the St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin. This celebration includes parades, concerts, plays, and fireworks.


In the picture above, is the annual celebration of Chicago's river being colored green on St. Patrick's Day.

As Irish Immigrants spread throughout the United States, many different cities began to develop their own traditions of St. Patrick's Day. In 1962, Chicago began the annual dyeing of the Chicago green. The reason why this started in 1962 was because pollution control workers were trying to find sewage discharges. They released 100 pounds of vegetable dye into the water, which kept the river green for an entire week. As of today, in the annual traidition of dyeing the river green, they only use 40 pounds which turns the river green for several hours in order to avoid damaging the environment.

In many different cities whether they are big or small, there are St. Patrick's Day parades that people participate in, wearing green, and drinking a lot of beer. The amount of people that attend these parades depends on the weather and whether or not the parade is in a large city such as New York or Chicago. Still, even in some small cities, many people do participate due to their kids wanting to go or the overall interest of being apart of the parade because they didn't or couldn't celebrate the year before.


In the picture above, a group of bagpipe players are participating in the annual celebration of St. Patrick's Day.


In this picture, a group of people are wearing green and participating in a St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Did You Know ?

Leprechaun comes from the Irish word "luchorpan", which actually means little body. A leprechaun is believed to be an Irish fairy that is an old man about two feet tall. He is dressed like a shoemaker with a crooked hat and apron. In myths, leprechauns ar unfriendly, make shoes, and have a pot of gold. Since the leprechaun was apart of the Irish folklore long before Saint Patrick himself, it became apart of St. Patrick's Day along with all things Irish such as hope, faith, green, and the shamrock.

A tradition symbol of St. Patrick's Day is the shamrock. This is due to the myth that Saint Patrick explained the Holy Trinity by using three leaves of the Irish clover, the shamrock. After a while, the shamrock was chosen as the national emblem because of the myth behind it. The Irish consider the emblem to be of good luck, just as many parts of the world see the shamrock as being of good luck.

Originally, the color of Saint Patrick was green and not blue ! In the 19 century, the symbol for Ireland changed to green. The Emerald Isle in Ireland is green all year round due to the rain and the mist. The wearing of the color green is a way for people to pay tribute to Ireland and is supposed to bring good luck especially on St. Patrick's Day. Many years ago, the pinching of people began because of children running around and doing this to those that weren't wearing green. This tradtion remained to be apart of St. Patrick's Day and has been practiced annually.

Are you celebrating St. Patrick's Day this year ?

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    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @John thanks for commenting and I liked that you found my article interesting

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 

      5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      An interesting article, torrilynn. As I was born in Scotland, I don't celebrate St. Patrick's day, although my grandfather was Irish.

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @beingwell you are the second person to inform me that you don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, where you live, interesting and thanks for sharing this with others

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @rebecca I think that is amazing that you are cooking that, sounds delicious

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great info on St. Pat's Day. I am cooking corned beef and cabbage and making a rainbow cake.

    • beingwell profile image


      5 years ago from Bangkok

      I only learned of this holiday, 2-3 years back. We don't have it in my side of the world. Nonetheless, it's just around the corner... I wish you guys a lot of luck on this very day! Sharing this timely post to my hub friends.

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Aufait Im glad you liked my hub and thanks for voting up.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      A timely hub given that St. Paddy's Day is just 4 days away! Lots of interesting information here and I recommend everyone learn a little more about the history of this day. Voted up!

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @DeborahNeyens I find it great that you will be participating in your parade in your town

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @midget38 I'm happy you liked the information and thanks for sharing this with others

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @PeggyW thanks for voting up and Im glad you found my hub interesting

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @WilliamTorpey interesting background that you have there i think that it awesome and Im glad you commented on my hub

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Three cheers for the Irish! Everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Both my grandfathers were Irish.On my mother's side my grandfather, Michael J. Hogan aka Shamus O'Brien (lightweight boxing champion) came from Dungarvan, Ireland. Thanks for the history.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This was all very interesting. I had no idea what the origin of dyeing the Chicago river green was, but it has certainly become a part of the celebrations on St. Patrick's day ever since. Up and interesting votes.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the information. Comprehensive & shared!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      5 years ago from Iowa

      I love St. Patrick's Day and celebrating my Irish heritage. In fact, I will be marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade in my town this Sunday. Can't wait!

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @peachpurple I find it interesting that you don't celebrate St.Patrick's Day and yet I am not surprised and thanks for voting up.

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      In Malaysia, we don't celebrate St.Patrick's day because it is not a compulsory holiday and not common either. Maybe in parties and clubs. Glad to know the history. Voted up


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