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Statue of St Patrick holding a shamrock

When is St. Patrick’s Day 2024?

St. Patrick's Day is an Irish celebration at heart but raucous events are now held all around the world. However, if you look past the many pints of Guinness and green party hats, there's a deeper story of national identity and religion.


St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world on 17th March. This date is said to be the anniversary of his death which took place at some point in the 5th century. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a huge celebration as well as a national holiday, but around the world, it has also become a significant annual event.

In 2024, St. Patrick’s Day is taking place on a Sunday, but this surely won’t stop the celebrations. Let’s explore the history of the day and how it is celebrated.

Who was St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick, who was said to have lived during the 5th century, is the national apostle and patron saint of the Republic of Ireland. As a highly religious country, Ireland holds St. Patrick in high esteem and his story is very well-known.

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain but was kidnapped and arrived in Ireland as a slave aged just 16. He managed to escape but returned to Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland.

The rest of his life is shrouded in legend, with all kinds of myths and stories written about him. He has become a central part of Irish history and culture, combining iconic Irish symbols with Christianity, such as using the native Irish clover, the shamrock, as a device for describing the Holy Trinity to his listeners.

The history of St. Patrick’s Day

People in Ireland have been observing the traditional feast of St. Patrick since around the 9th century. The celebrations today have changed a little, but the most traditional way to celebrate is as part of the season of Lent.

Irish families would attend the St. Patrick’s Day church service in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Traditionally Lenten prohibitions were waived during the celebrations, allowing everyone to feast as much as they liked on all kinds of delicacies, including the Irish classic of bacon and cabbage.

St. Patrick’s Day in the UK began to gain traction and interest in the late 19th century. The first St. Patrick’s Day concerts were organised by the Gaelic League in the 1890s and continued to be staged at central London venues such as the Queen’s Hall and Holborn Hall. There are even earlier examples of St. Patrick’s Day in England, with a letter from Jonathan Swift written in 1713 making direct reference to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in London.

Throughout the years there have been peaks and troughs in Ireland’s influence in the UK. After World War II, Irish emigration to England increased significantly and the Catholic Church and Irish County Associations became the main organisers of St. Patrick’s Day events. This period also saw the beginning of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade from Whitehall to Westminster Cathedral.

With the rise in IRA bombings in the latter half of the 1900s, large-scale outdoor St. Patrick’s Day events were fully suspended in 1972 and only lowkey celebrations continued into the 1990s. However, the Greater London Authority and the Council of Irish County Associations began to arrange a new St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival in Trafalgar Square in 2002. By 2015, this huge festival was bringing in crowds of over 125,000.

Beyond London, cities up and down England are famed for their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Birmingham hosts one of the largest celebrations in the UK and Liverpool is renowned as the second capital of Ireland for its large Irish population.

Modern-day celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day are mainly focused on the liquid side of our diets, with a determined commitment to enjoying local Irish drinks and attending Irish-themed parties. Guinness has made the most of the celebrations too, handing out over 300,000 hats every year in the UK and selling more than 13 million pints of the black stuff worldwide on 17th March.

Facts about St. Patrick’s Day

1. St. Patrick never chased the snakes out of Ireland

Some of the legends surrounding St. Patrick did get a little sensational and one of the best-known ones is the belief that he chased the snakes out of Ireland. This simply isn’t possible as snakes have never lived on the island.

2. Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or risk a leprechaun’s wrath

The tradition of green accessories, decorations and clothes lead back to another Irish myth featuring leprechauns. Legend has it that if you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day then you’ll be pinched by a leprechaun. Wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, keeping you safe from their attacks!

3. The Chicago River is dyed Kelly Green every year

The USA is known for its love of all things Irish and its huge communities can trace their roots back to the Emerald Isle. That makes it understandable why the Plumbers Local 110 Union dyes the Chicago River to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day each year. The dye lasts around five hours and is completely non-toxic.

4. NYC is home to the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade

Once again, the USA makes the biggest splash when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, with the huge, world-record-breaking parade held in New York every year. Over two million people attend the event in the centre of the city every 17th March.