Aesthetics Wiki

Saint Patrick's Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a religious and cultural celebration celebrating Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It's considered one of the most important celebrations of Irish culture because it marked the arrival of Catholicism into the island, and it is usually held on 17th of March.

This is an official public holiday in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada) and Montserrat, but it is also widely celebrated in the rest of the United Kingdom, Brittany (France), Galicia (Spain), the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, especially among the Irish diaspora.

Out of every national holiday, Saint Patrick's Day is the most globally celebrated one around the world, even among those who are not Irish or of Celtic descent. This has led to the holiday being associated with traditional clichés, such as wearing green and shamrocks, dressing up as a leprechaun, drinking beer and whiskey, hanging up stereotypical decoration, among others. The global version of Saint Patrick's Day is sometimes criticized for being too commercialized and promoting negative stereotypes about Irish culture. In this article, both the traditional and global versions of the holiday will be documented and explained.


Saint Patrick[]

Stpatrick hilloftara

A statue of Saint Patrick in County Meath, Ireland.

Saint Patrick was born in the late 4th century in Britain, which was part of the Roman Empire at the time. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by raiders and he was taken to Ireland, where he became a slave and was forced to work as a shepherd for six years. He managed to escape, although the location is debatable. Some legends suggest he fled to Wales or Cornwall, both in western Britain, while other legends claim he fled to Saint-Malo, in Brittany (northwestern France, at the time known as Armorica)[1]. Sometime around 432 AD, Saint Patrick returned to Ireland due to his spiritual experiences in the island. He spent decades travelling through Ireland, and he preached Christianity and estabilished churches and monasteries. He also helped spread literacy and education to the Irish people. Some legends claim that he got rid of the "snakes" and "all the evil" from Ireland, although that's in fact a despective metaphor for the Celtic Pagans[2], those who practiced the older beliefs of the island. Saint Patrick passed away on the 17th of March, 461 AD, becoming one of the most important patron saints of Ireland.


The earliest Saint Patrick's Day religious celebrations can be traced back to the 9th and 10th centuries, when Irish Catholic communities tributed Saint Patrick on the day he passed away. During the 17th century, the holiday started to be officially observed by the Catholic Church, and the holiday became official in 1631 when the Church established a Feast Day honoring St. Patrick[3]. Centuries later, it became an official public holiday of the Republic of Ireland in 1903, with the Bank Holiday Act.

The cultural evolution of the tradition started on the 18th century onwards, when the Great Famine happened and many Irish people had to immigrate to other countries in search for a better life. Many Irish diaspora communities were formed around the world, and they brought over their traditions (such as Saint Patrick's Day or Samhain, more known as Halloween) and used them as a way to connect with their heritage and maintain their distinct ethnic identity in their new home countries. Over time, the holiday became less religious, and the day transformed into a more secular celebration of Irish culture. Some stereotypical aspects of modern Saint Patrick's day include parades, traditional Irish music and dance, wearing green and leprechaun hats. Today it's a holiday celebrated all over the world, especially among countries with large Irish communities.

Traditional Version[]


A Saint Patrick's Day cultural parade in Dublin, Ireland.

In Ireland, Saint Patrick's Day may be notably more calm than in other countries, in fact, pubs used to be closed throughout the entire country on March 17th until 1970[4]. It has been celebrated for over 1000 years and it remains as a primarily religious celebration, tributing the arrival of Christianity to the island, as Catholicism became an important part of Irish culture and differenciated it from its neighbor cultures, such as the primarily Protestant Britain. Until the 17th century, it was a minor celebration, but since then, it became the national holiday of Ireland. In Ireland, it's often celebrated with parades, music, dance, and lots of green. The biggest parade takes place in the capital, Dublin, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Apart from partying, the holiday also has a more respectful and religious stance, with many people attend church services[5] to honor the patron saint, and other traditional activities include family gatherings, attending music sessions (céilí) or cooking Irish cuisine, and the currently minoritized Irish language might be spoken more often as a source of cultural pride. It is also a flag flying day in the country[6], and some of the flags flown in this day include the Irish tricolor, the Irish green harp flag or the flags of the traditional counties of the island (Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Ulster).

Globalized Version[]


An Irish flag defaced with a shamrock, often flown in the USA during St. Patrick's Day

The globalized version of Saint Patrick's Day became popular around the world through the Irish diaspora and their descendants, especially those who settled in the United States and Canada. The holiday still celebrates Irish culture, but with an obvious Americanized twist. Large-scale parades are the highlight, featuring floats, marching bands with bagpipes and other traditional Irish instruments, people dressed in green costumes with dyed red hair and flags of the Republic of Ireland defaced with a shamrock. Wearing green at sporting events, especially basketball and hockey, is a popular tradition. Pub celebrations are also common and many people use the holiday as their chance to drink excessively, particularly drinks like whiskey and beer, although this also leads to complications in the streets such as people puking on the floor, and some have also criticized the practice for promoting negative stereotypes such as "Irish people are always drunk". Foods and drinks consumed during the day include corned beef and cabbage, any food dyed green and Irish-themed dishes, like soda bread or shepherd's pie. Generally, some say Saint Patrick's Day is a bigger deal in the United States than in Ireland itself.



A collection of motifs associated with the celebration

Some iconic visuals in the globalized version of Saint Patrick's Day include:

  • Shamrocks
  • Pots full of gold
  • Rainbows in the sky
  • Cartoonish Leprechauns
  • Beer, whiskey and alcoholic drinks
  • Green hills
  • Golden horseshoes
  • Harps and bagpipes
  • Green and orange balloons and/or wreaths
  • Flags featuring shamrocks
  • Large-scale parades
  • Green-dyed everything
  • Focus on consumption rather than the religious origins of the holiday


Some stereotypical costumes many people wear during Saint Patrick's Day include:

  • Any green clothing
  • Leprechaun hats
  • Shamrock motifs, sunglasses, earrings, t-shirts, etc.
  • Accessories with the colours of the Irish flag
  • Black boots and belts with gold accents
  • Green shamrock or heart-shaped sunglasses
  • Fake orange beards
  • Dyed orange hair


The commercialized version of Saint Patrick's Day has been criticized for focusing on consumerism rather than the original religious value of the celebration. The inaccurate portrayal of Irish culture and symbolism in mass-produced merchandise is sometimes criticized for cultural appropiation, because for example shamrocks are turned into a marketable symbol rather than portrayed in its original religious context, and other symbols that perpetuate harmful stereotypes against Irish people, such as alcoholic drinks or the stereotype that all Irish people are red-haired, may be considered offensive by some.


Some activities associated with Saint Patrick's Day include:

  • Religious observance, attending church services
  • Family gatherings
  • Cooking traditional meals
  • Listening and watching traditional music and dance
  • Attending smaller cultural parades
  • Flag-flying

The more commercialized version of the tradition may include activities like:

  • Attending large-scale parades
  • Dressing up as a leprechaun or wearing green
  • Dying your hair orange
  • Dying everything green
  • Eating corned beef and cabbage
  • Having fun, rather than celebrating Christianity
  • Consuming alcoholic drinks