March 17 is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who is said to have brought Christianity to Ireland and also to have driven the snakes out. St. Patrick's Day is a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. It is a national holiday in Ireland and is widely celebrated in the United States.
More than 35 million Americans self-identify as having Irish ancestry, ranking it as the third-highest heritage in the nation (data is from American Community Survey 5-year estimates 2007-2011). That’s almost eight times the population of Ireland, which has 4.6 million people!
St. Patrick's Day Parades
In the United States, parades often take place the weekend before the holiday. Chicago, which boasts a high Irish population, dyes the Chicago River green with a special temporary dye. Boston, another city with lots of Irish folks, has held a St. Patrick’s Day parade every year since 1737. Sadly, the parade was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus.
Clovers are one of the symbols of Ireland and St. Patrick's Day. It is said that the first leaf is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love, and the fourth for luck, which is why four-leaf clovers are considered lucky. Only one four-leaf clover exists for every 10,000(ish) three-leaf clovers, so if you find one, you really are fortunate!
Catching a Leprechaun could make you even luckier! Leprechauns are said to be shoemakers by trade (the word itself may come from the Irish Gaelic words leath bhrogan, which means "shoemaker"), and they are also known to be very enthusiastic musicians.
Legend says that every Leprechaun has a pot of gold hidden in the Irish countryside, and if you catch a Leprechaun, he must give you his pot of gold or grant you three wishes.
However, they are among the most mischievous of the magical "wee folk," so you will have to be very careful what you wish for. If you wish for more money than you can count, he may give you only $1 and then cast a spell on you, making you forget how to count. They are tricky like that!
Fun Facts About Ireland
- The symbolic color of Ireland, also called the "Emerald Isle," is green.
- The Irish flag is green, white, and orange. Green symbolizes the people of the south, orange represents the people of the north, and white represents the peace that brings them together as a nation.
- On St. Patrick’s Day, adults traditionally wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jackets or caps, and the children wear orange, white, and green badges.
- Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has a huge St. Patrick’s Day Festival from March 15-19 that features a parade, family carnivals, treasure hunt, dance, theater, and more. What a celebration!