We get emails asking how is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in Ireland constantly in the lead up to the ‘big day’. So, c’mere till I tell ye!
2023 marks my 34th St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland…
This wasn’t intentional. But it gives me a nice angle for this article.
Different people/families/counties/generations do very different things in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, as you’ll discover below.
The quick answers to how is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in Ireland
Before we answer the question ‘How do Irish people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?’, let’s get you up-to-speed quickly:
1. It takes place on March 17th, but…
Although the date for St. Patrick’s Day is set in stone each year, the day of the week changes. So, for example, if St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Monday then you’ll likely get Paddy’s Day themed events taking place on the Friday and Saturday before.
2. There are parades in most counties
St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is marked by many towns, villages and cities with parades of varying sizes. For example, an enormous parade takes place on St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin while Kilkenny has a monster six-day festival. Waterford still has their parade after becoming the first Irish city to parade way back in 1903.
3. It’s not as big as you might think
People tend to think that Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day is a widely celebrated event, but that isn’t the case. Yes, many people attend parades and St. Patrick’s related events, but many just enjoy a day off or begrudgingly head into work for the day.
8 things people tend to do in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day
Now that we have the need-to-knows about Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day out of the way, it’s time to look at what takes place.
Below, you’ll find the different ways that St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is celebrated and no – people don’t just spend the day in one of the many pubs in Ireland…
1. The many Parades of all shapes and sizes
First up is the most obvious and it’s arguably one of the most common of the many St. Patrick’s Day traditions.
Parades are a key part of the festivities on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and no two parades are the same!
big part of the March 17th celebrations and no one St. Patrick’s Day parade is the same.
In Limerick, if you stick around until the evening you’ll be treated to a spectacular fire show while over in Sligo their parade has been going for over 50 years and features drums, dinosaurs and much else.
2. The ‘greening’ of landmarks
The colour green is synonymous with St. Patrick and up and down the country you’ll find some of the most famous landmarks in Ireland lit up in green for a few days around March 17th.
From the Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary to Athenry Castle in Co. Galway, it’s at night when they are at their most vivid, so try and head out when night falls.
Dublin is, of course, where you find the most concentrated amount of ‘greened’ landmarks.
3. The wearing of green
Many places in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day are one big sea of green and you’ll find the likes of Penny’s and other shops selling a mix of green gear in the lead up to the big day.
Whether it’s a bright green top-hat (false orange beard is optional…) or a flamboyant green skirt, pop it on and head off on your merry way.
You’ll find some people wearing very elegant, carefully selected green garments while others (I’ve done this many times in the past…) will chuck on anything green, regardless of how ill fitting it is.
4. Shamrocks on the lapel
OK, so I’ve struggled to find an accurate photo to accompany what is one of the more traditional nods to St. Patricks Day in Ireland.
When I was a kid, I’ll always remember my grandad walking into the house after mass with a bunch of shamrocks pinned to his lapel.
The shamrock is one of the iconic symbols of Ireland and you’ll see it quite frequently around St. Patrick’s Day (and during the rest of the year if you walk into any tourist souvenir shop).
So, although many people won’t have a drink in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, many will.
Personally, I’d only drink on Paddy’s Day if it was a Friday or Saturday and there was something on.
However, many people head into Ireland’s towns, villages and cities as they know they’ll find the pubs buzzing away.
Here are some St. Patrick’s Day drink guides to tip into:
- 17 Irish drinks to try this Paddy’s Day
- 15 Irish beers that’ll tantalise your tastebuds
- 13 tasty St. Patrick’s Day drinks to whip up at home
6. St. Patrick’s Day foods
Although there are plenty of traditional Irish foods that are widely eaten in households across Ireland, others are often saved (or avoided…) until special dates throughout the year.
Dishes like stews and cabbage and bacon can be found on many tables throughout the year. However, certain traditional foods are often brought out as a way of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
Boxty and coddle are two of the most popular, however, I recall us being served mash potatoes with coins wrapped up in tinfoil hidden in the potato as a kid!
7. By doing very un-St.Patrick’s-Day-related-activities
St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday and, as we mentioned earlier, there’s no pressure to do anything if you don’t want to.
In fact, many people, myself included, tend to dodge the sizeable crowds that travel to Ireland in March.
Personally (I live in Dublin) I’ll head to either the Wicklow or Dublin mountains or head off on one of the many day trips from Dublin.
If I am coaxed to head into the city, I’ll try and head to one of the pubs in Dublin with live music.
Related read: Here’s what it’s like in Temple Bar on St. Patrick’s Day.
8. St. Patrick’s Day masses
Many people attend masses on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
1000 years ago, simple religious services were all that took place on March 17th when St. Patrick was held in great reverence.
These days, St. Patrick’s Day prayers are very common and it’s a good way of perhaps avoiding all the pomp and finding the spiritual side of the country’s national day.
In fact, you could even double up by attending mass in the morning then joining the parade straight afterwards!
FAQs on how is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in Ireland
We’ve had a endless questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in Ireland?’ to ‘Is Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day crazy?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below. Here are some related reads you should find interesting:
- 73 Funny St. Patrick’s Day Jokes For Adults And Kids
- The Best Irish Songs And The Best Irish Films Of All Time For Paddy’s Day
- The Most Notable St. Patrick’s Day Traditions In Ireland
- 17 Tasty St. Patrick’s Day Cocktails To Whip Up At Home
- How To Say Happy St. Patrick’s Day In Irish
- 5 St. Patrick’s Day Prayers And Blessings For 2023
- 17 Surprising Fact’s About St. Patrick’ Day
- 33 Interesting Facts About Ireland
How does Ireland celebrate St. Patricks Day?
Ireland on St. Patrick’s varies greatly. Different generations, counties and families celebrate in very different ways. Some attend parades, some attend mass services and others don’t celebrate it at all.
What is Ireland like on St. Patrick’s Day?
The main cities and towns tend to come alive with St. Patrick’s Day parades while tourist favourites, like Dublin’s Temple Bar, are packed to seams with visiting tourists looking to experience ‘the craic’.
How important is St. Patrick’s Day Celebrated in Ireland?
Again, it depends. Some celebrate March 17th religiously and have very set traditions that they follow. Others regard it as just another day and don’t mark it at all.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.