St Patrick’s Day falls on March 17 every year and is the annual feast day in celebration of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and although it is not a bank holiday in England, Wales and Scotland it is still widely celebrated across the UK and around the world by ex-pat Irish communities and those of Irish ancestry.
Traditionally it was used to mark the life and work of the saint but now has a wider meaning as a general celebration of Irish culture and the role of Irish immigrants in communities throughout the world.
In England and Scotland celebrations such as processions and parades take place to mark the occasion in major cities with significant Irish populations such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester, while Irish pubs across the country also host parties, promotions and special events to mark the occasion. The day is heavily promoted by Irish drinks brand Guinness which has helped to make it one of the most well known patron saint’s days in the world.
Shamrocks are a common theme as this is seen as a key symbol of St Patrick and Ireland, while wearing green clothing and displaying green colours and the tricolour of the Republic of Ireland are also prominent during St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Religious observances also take place in Christian churches of various denominations, with St Patrick being recognised for his role in spreading Christianity in Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day has been an official Christian feast day since the 17th century and since that time has been adopted by Irish communities around the world as a way of celebrating their national and cultural heritage.
The feast was established to commemorate the life of St Patrick and takes place on March 17 as this is accepted as the anniversary of his death. Having first been taken to Ireland as a slave in the early 5th century, he later returned as a Christian missionary and is hailed as playing a key role in establishing Christianity as the dominant religion of the land.
The shamrock became his symbol as this is what he was said to have used to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity during his missionary work. By the 7th century he had become known as the patron saint of Ireland.