The History, Meaning, and Traditions of St. Patrick's Day: Part 3

Posted by Hayley Adams on Mar 16th 2023

Over the last few weeks, we’ve dove into the origin and history of St. Patricks Day in our 3 part series. In Part 1 we discussed the beginning of St. Patricks Day, in Part 2 we explored the origins and history of the Irish flag, and for our 3rd and final segment, we’ll showcase some of the traditions of this beloved Irish celebration.

Clovers, Green, and Leprechauns, oh my!

There's nothing like dressing in your finest green attire, grabbing a few lucky clovers, and heading down to your local parade or Irish pub to celebrate with friends. But have you ever stopped and wondered how these unique traditions started?

Why Do Wear Green on SPD?

Funny enough, Ireland wasn’t always associated with the color green. Many centuries ago, the Emerald Isle, despite its name, was actually linked to the color blue. As discussed in Part 1, green was eventually used as the color of the flag in the Great Irish Rebellion when the Irish fought against the English, and over the years, green became a national symbol of pride for Ireland.

It didn’t take long for wearing green clothes to become common in the U.S. during SPD parades and celebrations. It was a symbol that Irish-Americans used to honor their heritage and seems to have stuck all these years later.

Leprechauns and St. Patricks Day

What if we told you that leprechauns technically "existed" before St. Patrick's Day even came to be? It’s said that Leprechauns were initially written about in 19th-century Irish fables. They were described as short men who just happened to be exceptional shoemakers. The old tale goes, after making their money, they hid their coins in pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until the late 1950’s though that Leprechauns were actually associated with SPD. In 1959 there was a Disney film about an old Irish man and his leprechaun friends that was released right as St. Patrick's Day parades were becoming more common. So, just like that, Leprechauns became a staple in St. Patrick's Day festivities.

Irish Celebrations in America Today

Believe it or not, March 17th has been a more holy day than a holiday in Ireland, in fact in the beginning, bars were ordered to close on this day each year to honor this holy day. That’s not quite the case in America. Each year on March 17th, the U.S. becomes its own emerald country for a day and celebrates by wearing green clothes, drinking green beer, and partaking in leprechaun-worthy shenanigans. Larger cities like Chicago even take it a step further and dye their iconic river green every year for their SPD Parade.

People from coast to coast celebrate all things Irish by hoisting pints of Guinness and cheering bagpipers, step dancers, and marching bands parading through city streets. However you decide to celebrate SPD this year, take a moment to remember the history that March 17th holds and appreciate the Irish culture as you cheer to your green beer!