St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
Expert Advice

Image: Creative Commons, Anthony Cronin

You don’t have to be Irish to partake in the St. Patrick’s Day fun! While the root of the holiday is to celebrate Irish heritage, March 17 has become a cultural icon for all people to spend time with friends and family, often while donning green or hoping for a bit of extra luck. Many of the holiday’s traditions come from Ireland and have been adopted (and adapted) over the years in the U.S. and are shared in communities across the country. Here are some great St. Patrick’s Day traditions, which no doubt include some great adult beverages specifically for the holiday.

Shamrock Significance

The three-leaf clover is essentially the official “unofficial” national flower of Ireland, as St. Patrick himself is said to have used the plant’s three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity to nonbelievers as he worked to convert Irish people to Christianity. (Where does the lucky fourth clover come into play? The uncommon variation of the shamrock having four leaves is rarer, and therefore considered to grant people good luck!)

Beware of Leprechauns

More mischievous than an elf, less graceful than a fairy, and equally as grumpy as your Great Uncle Carl, leprechauns might as well be a St. Patrick’s Day mascot. Known for their conniving ways and hungry for playing tricks, they use their magical powers to protect their pots of gold coins.

Go Green

Back in the 19th century, Irish immigrants started wearing green and carrying flags from their home country as a way of demonstrating pride in their heritage. It has grown to become a staple in March, with both Irish and non-Irish folks sporting their favorite shade—from a light seafoam to rich emerald—in the spirit of the holiday.

If you Don’t, Prepare for a Pinching

That’s right—did you know the consequences for not wearing green on St. Paddy’s Day is a pinch? Legend has it that wearing green makes a person invisible to scheming leprechauns. (Where they decide to pinch…well that’s a different story!)

Parades & Live Music

Attending a parade is one of the most quintessential St. Patrick’s Day traditions for those lucky enough to have one nearby. (And if you aren’t in a big city like New York of Chicago, where they really do it up big, local towns will often have their own smaller parades with the same among of energy and pride.) You’ll likely catch an Irish stepdance performance and various musical acts that often feature instruments like the Celtic harp, the fiddle, and uilleann pipes, which are similar to Scottish bagpipes.

Hearty Eating

You haven’t truly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day until you dive into a big plate of meat! While corned beef and cabbage is a classic meal you’ve probably heard of, it’s actually an American adaptation. In the olden days of Ireland, cows were primarily used for dairy, so it would have been unlikely to use them for meat—cured pork, or Irish bacon is more authentic and just as delicious.