Saint Patrick’s Day Traditions: USA vs. Ireland

Fiona Laddey

Photo courtesy of Google

Saint Patrick’s Day originated in Ireland in 1631. It was celebrated to honor St. Patrick, a Patron Saint of Ireland. Over the years, the holiday has become very commercialized, and the way it is celebrated is very different when comparing the United States and Ireland.

In Ireland, most traditions are actually very simple. Historically, the day consisted of going to church and spending time with family. The holiday did not become extravagant until the 1990s after Ireland began holding the Saint Patrick’s Festival, centered in Dublin. The festival lasts five days and includes events across the country. At that time, Ireland took the opportunity to increase tourism around the holiday. 

To start off, since Saint Patrick’s Day is a national holiday, most get the day off from school or work in Ireland. Most Catholics will go to church that day, as it is a religious holiday. They dress up, pinning shamrocks to their outfits, and end the day off with the traditional Saint Patty’s meal, boiled vegetables, potatoes, and roasted meat. 

The biggest difference is arguably the drinking standards. Due to the religious origins of the holiday, it was actually illegal for Irish pubs to be open that day until the 1970s. Although pubs are now open in Ireland, it’s uncommon to find Irish citizens there on March 17th. They are mostly open to tourists visiting large cities. On the other hand, alcoholic beverages are typically served at an American Saint Patrick’s Day party.

Many American entrepreneurs use Saint Patrick’s Day to make a profit, ignoring the cultural and religious significance. They sell green apparel, food, accessories, and more. People with no Irish heritage are happy to take part in the festivities. 

While most Americans see the holiday as a day to party with family and friends, in Ireland, the holiday is taken very seriously. Despite the differences, it is still a day for everyone to enjoy.