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Luck of the Irish: A guide to St. Patrick’s Day traditions and history

Luck of the Irish: A guide to St. Patrick’s Day traditions and history

Luck of the Irish: A guide to St. Patrick’s Day traditions and history
March 10
14:00 2023

To many Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is simply an excuse to have a good time and get drunk. Come March 17, people flood the streets, decked out in green, to watch parades and celebrate the day. However, despite being widely celebrated, most Americans don’t know what St. Patrick’s Day is or how the Irish celebrate it. 

Saint Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day was named after the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, and is believed to be the day he died. He was never canonized as a saint, but is considered one through popular claims. 

Patrick was British but was most known for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Unlike most missionaries, Patrick incorporated Irish traditions into his Christian teachings rather than eliminating native beliefs.

Because the holiday is technically a religious one in Ireland, you can celebrate the traditional Irish way by attending your local Catholic church. Like some Irish Catholics, you can renew your baptismal promises or recite some of Patrick’s prayers to honor Ireland’s patron saint.

Drowning the shamrock

Falling within the Lent season, St. Patty’s Day is considered the one day that even the most devout Catholics relax and allow themselves a drink. 

“Drowning the shamrock” is an age-old tradition that originated with Saint Patrick himself. The legend states that the patron saint went to a bar and received a not-quite-full glass of whiskey. He left after warning the barkeep that the Devil came for dishonest men. 

When Patrick returned to the bar sometime later, he saw the barkeep filling whiskey glasses to the brim. He declared that whiskey should be drunk on his feast day. 

Drowning the shamrock happens when the last round of whiskey is poured, a shamrock is placed into the glass, and then thrown over the person’s left shoulder for good luck. This tradition is typically celebrated in Ireland, but you can go to any local pub to take part in the tradition yourself.  

Wearing green

Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is perhaps the most notable tradition for Americans and Irish alike. However, green wasn’t always the color associated with the holiday. 

Blue was often depicted as the color of St. Patrick’s robes and part of Ireland’s first coat of arms. However, as tensions rose between Ireland and Britain, green became a symbol of rebellion for the Irish.

If you plan to go out on the 17th, make sure you’ve incorporated green into your wardrobe. In addition to representing Irish pride, it’s said that wearing the color makes you invisible to leprechauns, so they can’t pinch you.


Boston, Massachusetts has long since been thought to be the home of the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration. However, records show that the first American celebration of the holiday took place in St. Augustine, Florida in 1600. The tradition of Irish parades didn’t make its way to the northeast until about a century later in 1762. 

Irish soldiers in the British army would march through the streets of lower Manhattan, New York to a local tavern to celebrate every March 17. Unlike modern-day Americans, nativists hated the tradition and ridiculed the Irishmen.

As the Irish continued to come to America following the potato famine, they held fast to their heritage. Negative attitudes toward the Irish didn’t begin to dissipate until after the Civil War. St. Patrick’s Day celebration slowly began to spread to those even without Celtic heritage. 

While Denton does offer an array of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, a parade is not one of them. Although, just 45 minutes away, Dallas is holding the Greenville Ave. parade on March 11.

The parade spans two miles, featuring several food trucks and exhibitor booths. It’ll be the first time in two years the parade has happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Overall, there is no right way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. But as a holiday so central to Irish culture, it’s important to remember where these traditions come from and how we should partake in them.  

Featured Illustration by Isabella Isquierdo

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Xander Weems

Xander Weems

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