Growing up in Ireland, I’ve seen plenty of St. Patrick’s Day traditions come and go.
Some, like the wearing of shamrocks on the lapel, are St. Patrick’s Day customs that my grandad followed every year without fail.
Others, like the ‘greening’ of landmarks are some of the newer traditions that have only made an appearance over the last decade.
Below, you’ll find a mix of old, weird and wonderful St. Patrick’s Day traditions that take place in Ireland and elsewhere.
St. Patrick’s Day Traditions in Ireland
The first section of this guide looks at the most popular St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Ireland.
The second section looks at customs that are more popular in the likes of the US.
1. The wearing of green
One of the more common St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Ireland and elsewhere is the wearing of green.
Now, wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to mean lashing on face paint and dyeing your hair green – a green tie or a green pair of socks will do the job just fine!
Although the original colour of St. Patrick was blue, green is the colour most associated with Ireland’s Patron Saint.
2. The St. Patrick’s Day parade
Attending a parade is one of the more widely celebrated St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Ireland, mainly due to the number of parades that take place in towns, villages and cities across the island.
3. The break from Lent
If you’re not familiar with the Christian practice of Lent, it’s a period of 40 days, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday, when people give up something or take up something.
So, for example, someone might give up chocolate or alcohol for the 40 days. One of the older St. Patrick’s Day customs was the breaking of Lent on March 17th.
St. Patrick’s Day acted as a reprieve from the Lent restrictions, with kids in particular taking the day to enjoy sweets!
4. Watching Irish movies and listening to Irish music
Irish movies and music are two things associated with St. Patrick’s Day for many with Irish ancestry.
You’ll often hear of friends and families spending the day kicking back with some popular Irish movies, like the Field or the Commitments.
5. A shamrock on the lapel
One of the older St. Patrick’s Day customs is the pinning of a shamrock onto your lapel.
When I was a little fella, I’ll always remember my grandad strolling into the house after mass with a big bunch of shamrocks pinned proudly to his lapel.
The shamrock is closely tied to St. Patrick and it’s one of the more notable symbols of Ireland. Although you see this tradition less and less these days, it’s one with plenty of memories for me.
6. St. Patrick’s Day pilgrimages
If you’re wondering how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in an active way, this next custom should tickle-your-fancy!
One of the older St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Ireland was the visiting of holy sites that were closely linked to the Patron Saint.
Many of these places can be found dotted around Ireland, but one of the most popular is Croagh Patrick Mountain in County Mayo.
One of the St. Patrick legends states that he fasted on top of the mountain for 40 days. Many people climb to the summit on March 17th.
7. Traditional food
One of the more popular St. Patrick’s Day customs in Ireland amongst older generations is to serve up traditional Irish foods.
Colcannon (mashed potato, kale and onions), Coddle (a casserole of pork sausages, potatoes and Guinness) or other traditional Irish fare is usually on the menu in most homes and restaurants on St Patrick’s Day.
You’ll also hear of people dishing up bacon and cabbage (even households that don’t enjoy it!).
8. St Patrick’s Day mass services
All denominations of churches hold St. Patrick’s Day prayers to remember St Patrick on the anniversary of his passing.
He was one of the earliest missionaries to bring Christianity to Ireland and, while the St. Patrick and the snakes legend is fictional, he is revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
9. Socialising with friends
Drinking is one of the most common things associated with St. Patrick’s Day, both in Ireland and abroad.
In Ireland, March 17th is a public holiday, so many people will ‘go-out’ to the pub or have a drink with friends at home the night before.
10. Green beer and Irish themed cocktails
Another of the St. Patrick’s Day traditions popular across the pond is the sipping of Irish drinks – usually with a load of green dye thrown in!
However, you don’t need to ‘go-green’ to enjoy an Irish-themed-tipple. Here are some guides with easy-to-follow Irish recipes:
- 17 Tasty St. Patrick’s Day drinks To Whip Up At Home
- 18 Traditional Irish Cocktails That Are Easy To Make
- 14 Delicious Jameson Cocktails To Try This Weekend
- 15 Irish Whiskey Cocktails That’ll Tantalise Your Tastebuds
11. Watching the parade on TV
One of the only St. Patrick’s Day customs that we followed in my house was the watching of the Dublin Parade on RTE.
The coverage of the parade is generally shown on stations across the world pulling in an audience of millions, with people looking to see what it’s like to spend St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
Now, you don’t have to watch the one in Dublin – there are some big St. Patrick’s Day parades in the US, for example, shown online.
12. The downing of the shamrock
So, while this sounds like one of the things associated with St. Patrick’s Day that might have originated in the States, that isn’t the case.
‘Póta Phádraig’ (or ‘St. Patrick’s Pot’ in English) was a drink that people used to knock back in Ireland as a way of honouring the man himself.
People would take the shamrock that was worn on their lapel and place it into their drink before giving an Irish toast.
The drink would be sipped and then, at the end, the soggy shamrock would be thrown over their shoulder for good luck!
13. Unfestive activities
One of the most popular St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Ireland is to… do very non St. Patrick’s Day activities.
As mentioned earlier, it’s an Irish national holiday and many people choose to celebrate in their own way.
Outside the cities, some people choose to head out for the day while others treat it as just another day.
I live in Dublin and, over my last 35 St. Patrick’s Days spent here, I’ve never spent the day in the city as it gets far too crowded.
FAQs about St. Patrick’s Day customs
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some things associated with St. Patrick’s Day?’ to ‘What’s an easy tradition to start?’.
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
- How To Say Happy St. Patrick’s Day In Irish
- 17 Surprising Fact’s About St. Patrick’ Day
- 33 Interesting Facts About Ireland
- 32 Of The Most Famous landmarks in Ireland
What are some things associated with St. Patrick’s Day?
Some of the main things associated with St. Patrick’s Day are the wearing of green, parades, drinking, Irish themed foods and drinks and the watching of Irish movies.
What are some old St. Patrick’s Day customs?
The wearing of a shamrock on the lapel, making pilgrimages to sites associated with Ireland’s Patron Saint and attending mass celebrations are some of the most notable St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Ireland.
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.