Incorporating Irish Traditions into Your St. Patrick’s Day

March 4, 2022

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St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that celebrates the life of Christian missionary to Ireland, St. Patrick. In fact, you can even read Patrick’s own testimony about his faith in Christ. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was captured by Irish pirates in 403 AD and spent six years enslaved. While in captivity in Ireland, he became a Christian. When Patrick escaped and returned home to Britain, he felt called to return to Ireland to spread the Gospel. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th, which is widely believed to be the day of Patrick’s death in about 461 AD.

There are many St. Patrick’s Day traditions you can follow. Here are some of the main questions people ask about this holiday.

Incorporating Irish Traditions into Your St. Patrick's Day on a background of St. Patrick's Day traditional colors and objects

Is it offensive to wear orange on St Patrick’s Day?

There is a lot of history and culture that goes into the colors you should wear to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Traditionally, Irish Americans do wear green to celebrate the holiday. But some people prefer to wear orange and here’s why.

Wearing Orange on St. Patrick’s Day

The Irish flag has three colors: green, white, and orange. Each symbolizes something particular. The green symbolizes Irish nationalism. The white stands for peace. And the orange is for the Orangemen of the north. What is that all about?

While about 78% of Irish identify as Catholic and only 4% identify as Protestants, Northern Ireland does have a large Protestant population (48%). This is important historically, as the Catholics and Protestants have clashed over the years on the Emerald Isle and the British Empire more broadly.

Irish Catholics became associated with the color green, while the Protestants can trace their association with the color orange back to William of Orange.

During the Glorious Revolution, William was the Protestant king who overthrew the Roman Catholic King James. So, the Orange Order is based in Northern Ireland and is associated with Ulster Protestants, mostly of Ulster Scots heritage.

Of course, Ireland is also known as the “Emerald Isle” because of its lush green landscape. So that’s still a good reason, along with the iconic shamrock, or three-leafed clover, to wear green clothes to celebrate the holiday. 

What are the rules for St Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th. On this day, people of Irish heritage have fun ways to remember their roots. In fact, honoring the Irish legend of St. Patrick is a big deal for Irish people and those of Irish descent. Wearing green seems to be the most noteworthy aspect of St. Patrick’s Day traditions.

Getting Pinched for Not Wearing Green

Speaking of official colors for St. Patrick’s Day, people might pinch you if you don’t wear green on the holiday. This tradition started as a reminder that leprechauns could sneak up and pinch you in honor of the holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day and Leprechauns

These little mythological creatures are another symbol of Ireland, and according to folklore green makes you invisible to leprechauns. That’s why you’re supposed to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Some people go all out and wear everything green, including nails, hair, face paint, and clothing. But the understood rules just require you to be wearing something green as part of your clothing, whether socks, tie, shoes, shirt, or pants.

St. Patrick’s Day is a Religious Holiday for Catholics

St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday in the Roman Catholic Church in addition to being a cultural holiday. It is an official feast day and observed by the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Catholic Church.

St. Paddy’s Day traditions include wearing green clothing, attending St. Patrick’s Day parades, and generally celebrating Irish ancestry. Some cities celebrate the Irish culture in fun ways. For example, in the city of Chicago, the Chicago River is turned into a green river annually to celebrate the holiday.

What brings you good luck on St Patrick’s Day?

The shamrock, or the three-leafed clover is considered the iconic symbol of Ireland. This national symbol has been used for thousands of years. But many people are confused about the difference between the shamrock and the four-leaf clover.

Legend of the Three-Leaf Clover

Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover variety to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish, with the leaves representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We’re not sure if this actually happened, but some people claim that the three leaves stand for faith, hope, and love. Either way, the Gaelic word meaning “little clover” is “shamrock,” which literally means “having three leaves.” 

The four-leaf clover is a mutation or variation of the shamrock, and since they’re harder to find, it’s considered a “lucky clover” and a symbol of good luck.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in your homeschool can be a great way to learn about food, music, fine arts, and sports from Ireland. Follow the simple directions in this tutorial to make a rainbow craft from a paper plate to add to your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

What food is traditionally eaten on St Patrick’s Day?

While many people think of corned beef and cabbage as a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal, this is more of an American meal than an authentic Irish one. This is because Irish immigrants in America ate inexpensive corned beef since they couldn’t afford bacon. Cabbage is also a cheap and widely available vegetable in the spring and along with potatoes it’s a staple of the Irish diet.

In addition to corned beef and cabbage, you might consider some other traditional Irish feasts like Irish lamb stew or shepherd’s pie. Irish stew is a national dish in Ireland and is a thick dish of mutton, potatoes and onions. 

Irish soda bread makes a nice side to any of these traditional meals. This kid-friendly Irish soda bread recipe will give you a homeschool lesson on baking bread and make the perfect compliment to your St. Patrick’s Day meal.

So whether you have Irish roots or not, everyone can celebrate the life of St. Patrick. He was a real person who made a great impact on Ireland and spread the Christian faith as one of the first missionaries to the Emerald Isle. Your homeschool family might enjoy doing some fun St. Patrick’s Day crafts, copying an Irish blessing, doing a unit study on Ireland, wearing green (or orange!), or eating traditional Irish food. Whatever way you choose to celebrate – make it fun!

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