Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Here's the History

You can thank St. Patrick himself for that green beer you're drinking.

We typically associate St. Patrick's Day with drinking green beer and wearing green clothing, so we don't get pinched. But why do we celebrate St. Patrick's Day? There's a lot more to this holiday story than leprechauns and shamrocks.

The legend of St. Patrick dates back more than 1,000 years, and the holiday has a deep religious meaning at its core. So as you cook up your corned beef and cabbage and sip your green beer, take a few minutes to learn about the historical significance of St. Patrick's Day.

People celebrating St Patrick's Day
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Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17?

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, no matter the day of the week. This day was chosen for the holiday because it was the day St. Patrick died. This year, St. Patrick's Day is Friday, March 17, 2023.

The History of St. Patrick's Day

To understand why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, we start with the legend of a man who lived more than 1,000 years ago. In the fifth century, a man born in Roman Britain named Patrick envisioned himself visiting Ireland and bringing Christianity to the people there. He traveled throughout Ireland, using a shamrock (or a three-leaf clover) to explain the Holy Trinity: The three clover's leaves represented the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (This is why shamrocks are Ireland's national flower and are used in St. Patrick's Day celebrations.)

After St. Patrick died on March 17, 461, his death date became a national religious holiday in Ireland in about the ninth or tenth century. Families would go to church in the morning and then celebrate for the rest of the day. The holiday typically falls during Lent, but the restrictions would be lifted for the day. The Irish people celebrated by eating corned beef and drinking beer—a tradition now used to celebrate St. Patrick's Day worldwide.

More than 1,000 years later, the tradition of St. Patrick's Day parades began, although interestingly, they began in America and not in Ireland. Irish soldiers serving in the army held a march on St. Patrick's Day in New York City in 1772, and since then, most major cities in America have adopted the tradition of hosting a St. Patrick's Day parade. The largest celebrations outside Ireland are the New York City and Boston parades.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated mainly in Ireland, the United States, Canada, and Australia, although Japan, Singapore, and Russia also hold small celebrations.

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