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Essential Blarney About Some Beloved St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

(Photo Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images & George Bryant/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images & George Bryant/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The 17th of March means a mighty celebration for Irish people… plus anyone else who wants to join in! St. Patrick’s Day marks the death of the Emerald Isle’s patron saint. It’s been going on for approximately a century and takes place across the globe.

What’s the story behind the Day’s many and memorable traditions? Grab a pint of something and find out more…


Actually, you might want to put the drink down. Country Living draws our attention to Sober St. Patrick’s Day. Arguing that a party is fun, but being able to walk straight is better, the organization promotes a cleaner approach to the saint’s legacy.

A reveller has a drink
Revellers watch the St Patrick’s day parade and festival in Trafalgar Square, London. (Photo Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Images via Getty Images)

Guinness record

If you are boozing, then chances are you’ll be knocking back a stout or two. Prof. Brenda Murphy of the University of Malta investigated Guinness’s deep-rooted connection to Ireland.

Where does it come from? The business’s major presence in the island nation, for one thing. Murphy discovered much anecdotal evidence regarding a love of the product. The misty-eyed fondness intensified with Irish folk overseas.

pint of Guinness on the bar
People hit their hands on a table in the rhythm of the music in the Emerald Irish Pub seen during Saint Patricks Day celebration on March 17, 2017 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo Credit: Karol Serewis/Gallo Images Poland/Getty Images)

Going green

Green is the color of St. Patrick’s Day, reflecting both the event and the faces of those who drank too much stout. It wasn’t always like that, however.

The patron saint apparently favored blue. Mental Floss notes “it wasn’t until 1641—over 1000 years after St. Patrick’s death—that green began making a statement in Ireland.” How come? A little thing called the Irish Rebellion, where people rejected British rule and needed a color to prove it.

It’s a long-standing tradition to drink green pints and even take a trip on a green river. Dye is pumped into the waters in Chicago to quite literally make a splash on the big day.

Chicago River is dyed green
Members of the plumbers’ union dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The River was first dyed green in 1962 and has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition in Chicago. (Photo Credit: Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Dishing it out

A plate of corned beef and cabbage is essential for many people celebrating the event. Though, as History writes, that type of meat “only began to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day at the turn of the 20th century.”

Corned beef and cabbage
Corned beef and cabbage, bottom; shepherd’s pie, top left, and bangers and mash (Photo Credit: Marty Caivano/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

The traditional cabbage has also been accompanied by salt pork, a more affordable option back home. Beef first joined the mix in the Big Apple, where it was cheap enough for struggling Irish immigrants.

Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan has an even more economical snack – the “Tayto Smashie.” He revealed to Jimmy Kimmel that corned beef was a poor reflection of St Patrick. A ham and potato chip sandwich on the other hand? No problem!

Dornan suggested using “Regular ham, the cheaper the better,” adding: “It all comes from the same animal.” Sliced white bread, a massive amount of mayo and a whole pack of cheese and onion flavored snack later and you’re good to go.

Jamie Dornan
Jamie Dornan attends the premiere of HBO Films’ “My Dinner With Herve” at Paramount Studios on October 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Mass effect

You may forget in all the reveling, but St. Patrick’s Day is a time of huge spiritual significance. Attending mass is much more important than stuffing yourself with corned beef and washing it down with beer. That’s the theory, anyway.

Irish Central says the hallowed celebration involves “offering prayers for missionaries worldwide even though St. Patrick was never officially canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.”

a bedazzled Spectator
Spectators watch marchers during the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York on March 17, 2015 (Photo Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Open your ears

The soundtrack to St. Patrick’s Day is unmistakable. History notes the tradition of making sweet noise goes back to the time of English oppression.

The native tongue was stepped on, but music proudly immortalized those turbulent years. Their rulers then banned the sound of fiddles and whistles, as music “often stirred emotion and helped to galvanize people,” the site states.

The parade

And where do those old compositions ring out today? At the multiple St. Patrick’s Day parades held worldwide. American cities are probably the best-known locations, due to the tradition starting in New York.

The parade has been featured in various movies, such as State of Grace (1990) with Sean Penn. Celebrations have been rattling windows there since the 18th century. Mental Floss writes that the idea of a public display was born through big Irish-American communities wanting to show off their sizeable populations.

It’s such an important part of US history that it started well over a decade before the Declaration of Independence was signed, writes the parade website.

A marching band
A marching band participates in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade along 5th Ave. on March 17, 2018 in New York City. New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in the world. (Photo Credit: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Shamrock on

Shamrocks go way back in Irish history, used by the Celts and associated with Spring, as History writes. Like the color green, the shamrock plant became a symbol of Irish identity in the face of authority from overseas.

And it was supposedly wielded by the patron saint himself! Mental Floss mentions its significance as a possible “teaching tool for Catholicism.”

Does much teaching go on with it these days? The shamrock is more part of a drinking ritual in recent times. Soaking it as part of a whiskey toast, the leaves are then thrown over your left shoulder. This reportedly brings good luck. Finger crossed!

the Duchess of Cambridge with a holiday drink
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge holds a glass of Harvey’s Bristol Creme in the Junior’s Mess as she visits Aldershot Barracks on St Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2012 in Aldershot, England. The Duchess presented shamrocks to the Irish Guards at a St Patrick’s Day parade during her visit. (Photo Credit: Chris Jackson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

More from us: The Irish Crown Jewels Have Been Missing for Over a Century – What Happened to Them?

Pucker up

Ever noticed how on St. Patrick’s Day, people gain a special sort of license? That license can be summed up in four immortal words: “Kiss me, I’m Irish!”

1930: A girl lies flat on the ground, in order to kiss the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle, Cork city. (Photo Credit: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
1930: A girl lies flat on the ground, in order to kiss the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle, Cork city. (Photo Credit: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

“Its origins are said to come from the Blarney Stone,” writes Country Living. That famous landmark has had many a pair of smackers planted on its weathered surface. Like with the shamrock, good fortune may follow. Though you maybe won’t get the same effect from locking lips with someone on St. Patrick’s Day!