St. Patrick’s Day Parade , Dublin

The great 5th century missionary , St. Patrick , who became the patron of Ireland , seems to have died on March 17 , for that has always been observed as his feast day. Down through the ages , he has been honoured in religious devotion , in scholarly research , and in popular legends , but much of the imagery today associated with him is not nearly so ancient.

His connection with the shamrock seems to date only from the 16th century , with the custom of celebrating the feast with a glass of whiskey. This was called ‘drowning the shamrock’ for the little trefoil plant was used as an appetiser in drinking. Some wit then invented the fable that Patrick used the shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity to the pagan Irish.

More recent still is the holding of great parades through towns on St. Patricks Day , led by brass and pipe bands. This originated in the 18th century in North America , where the British authorities held military parades on that day to encourage young Irishmen to join the army.

After Independence , the U.S. Army recruited Irish immigrants in the same way , but the military trappings gradually diminished and the custom became so popular that it was adopted at home in Ireland. In the course of the 20th century , the St. Patrick’s Day parades became ever more colourful and spread from the cities to smaller towns.

They are accompanied by music , dance , and fancy dress , while various organisations , businesses , and community groups have their own promotional exhibits. Across the Atlantic a huge parade is held in New York , and smaller ones are now held in other parts of the world where the Irish have settled. The procession through the streets of Dublin is the most prestigious of all.

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