St. Patrick's Day Traditions

These St. Patrick's Day traditions -- new and old -- are fun and festive, perfect for any Irish celebration.

By Elizabeth Jensen

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Female spectator wearing a green hat and green boa at the Chicago South Side Irish Parade in the Beverly, Illinois Neighborhood
St. Patrick's Day Traditions to Try

    Sure, you know that to avoid a pinch on St. Patrick's Day you should wear green. But do you know how to make traditional Irish soda bread? The words to a few Irish songs? Which city dyes a river green? Read on for a lesson on traditions, familiar and new.

Traditional Irish Food: Corned Beef & Cabbage

    A St. Patrick's Day menu wouldn't be complete without corned beef and cabbage. The ritual of serving this on St. Patrick's Day was started by Irish-Americans in the mid-1800s. Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon in the traditional Irish dish of bacon and cabbage. Pair with your favorite potato recipe for a true Irishman's feast.

Traditional Irish Food: Irish Soda Bread

    Irish soda bread, a longstanding and delicious St. Patrick's Day tradition, is the perfect accompaniment to corned beef and cabbage. Add raisins to give it extra flavor.

Traditional Irish Food: Irish Coffee

    The origin of this simple drink is widely disputed. Multiple sources claim to have invented it. But whether it's originally from Ireland or not, the drink is delicious. Enjoy a cup and celebrate the day!

Traditional Irish Food: Green Baked Goodies

    Looking for a quick way to bake some Irish fun? Add a few drops of green food coloring to your baked goods and share them with your friends and neighbors.

St. Patrick's Day Tradition: Watch a St. Patrick's Day Parade

    You don't have to be in Ireland to commemorate the day. New York City, Chicago, Boston, and many other cities throw huge St. Patrick's Day celebrations, including parades.

St. Patrick's Day Tradition: Wear a Four-Leaf Clover

    Legend has it that Saint Patrick used three-leaf clovers to illustrate the concept of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). They are abundant in Ireland, which is why they became a symbol of St. Patrick's Day. Four-leaf clovers are rare and are therefore considered lucky. Paint a clover on your face or dress in clover-print garment to make your day a lucky one.

St. Patrick's Day Tradition: Catch a Leprechaun

    According to the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin, Ireland, if you can catch a leprechaun, he is obliged to tell you where his gold is stashed. But keep a close eye on him; legend has it he's liable to disappear if you look away.

St. Patrick's Day Activity: Watch the Chicago River Turn Green

    Going to be in Chicago the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day? Head downtown to see the parade and watch the Chicago River magically turn a delightful shade of Irish green. Around 5,000 spectators line the sides of Columbus Drive every year to watch the dyeing of the river, a tradition that is more than 40 years old.

St. Patrick's Day Activity: Watch Irish Step Dancing

    The unique steps and beautiful costumes make Irish step dancing a St. Patrick's Day favorite. Catch a performance at your local parade or Irish festival.

St. Patrick's Day Activity: Enjoy a Green Beverage

    Be prepared to have a green smile on St. Patrick's Day. Beverages at restaurants, street festivals, and bars are often dyed green in honor of the day.

St. Patrick's Day Activity: Listen to Bagpipes

    The sound of bagpipes in the air is a St. Patrick's Day standard. Check out performances by the unique, talented musicians at a local parade or festival.

St. Patrick's Day Activity: Sing an Irish Song

    It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without some traditional Irish tunes. Dress in green, grab a pint, and start singing!

St. Patrick's Day Activity: Catch an Irish Movie

    To get you in the Irish spirit, here are four great Ireland-set movies to enjoy on St. Patrick's Day:

    1. Leap Year (2010), starring Amy Adams

    2. Circle of Friends (1995), starring Chris O'Donnell and Minnie Driver

    3. Far and Away (1992), starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

    4. The Quiet Man (1952), starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara

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