5 unique St. Patrick’s Day traditions

  • Sol Rivero

You don’t need to be from Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! This holiday has become increasingly popular worldwide, and many use it as a way of gathering with friends and having fun. Today, we tell you about 5 unique traditions that commemorate the life of a British young man called Patrick, who was abducted and sold as a slave in Ireland.  


St Patrick’s Day tradition #5: Dyeing the river green

One of the most popular and long lasting St. Patrick’s Day traditions occurs each year on Chicago, Illinois. There, people and buildings celebrate the holiday by fully dressing up in green and going on enormous parades. However, one of the most popular practices consists in dyeing the river green especially for the holiday.

A group of volunteers drive in motorboats through the Chicago River, and release a mysterious formula that makes it take a bright green color. The dye only lasts for six to twelve hours, and authorities assure it doesn’t damage the ecosystem gravely.

This St. Patrick’s Day tradition started on 1962, as a suggestion of the Chicago Plumbers Union.



St Patrick’s Day tradition #4: The parade

A very popular St. Patrick’s Day tradition which began in the United States are the parades. These events take place in several cities around the world, with New York hosting the largest, while Arkansas hosts the shortest version. During these festivities, popular symbols from the Irish culture are easy to spot: from leprechauns to shamrocks, everyone celebrates Irish heritage with traditional music, food and folkloric characters. Afterwards, friends and family gather around to enjoy a feast, drink and play games.

This tradition originated after the Irish Famine emigration pushed millions of Irishmen to go to North America. As one of the most prominent cultures of the United States, the parade became a way of recognizing and celebrating their Irish heritage.



St Patrick’s Day tradition #3: Freedom Run

Since many Irishmen settled on Caribbean islands, St. Patrick’s Day became a national holiday in some of them, including Montserrat, where they celebrate the Irish and African mixed heritage. During St. Patrick’s Day, the island remembers both St. Patrick and an uprising of African slaves with a Freedom Run: a parade which commemorates the emancipation of both cultures.  

Creole food, local music and masked dancers, are part of this Caribbean version of the holiday.



St Patrick’s Day tradition #2: Dressing up as leprechauns

It’s not uncommon to see people dressed up as leprechauns during the St. Patrick’s Day parades. It’s widely believed that these popular characters from the Irish folklore wear a top hat with a clover, as well as a full suit in green, and they’re known for being tricky and mischievous, and some follow their steps by playing pranks during the holiday.

One of the most popular traditions consists in people from the Shamrock Club –a group of Irish residents in New London, Wisconsin- dressing up as leprechauns and changing highway signs of the town so they read “New Dublin”.



St Patrick’s Day tradition #1: Wearing green

Perhaps the oddest, yet most popular of St. Patrick’s Day traditions, consists in making everyone dress up in green. From full green outfits to green jewelry, everyone must doll up in their best green attire, or else they run the risk of being pinched by leprechauns during St. Patrick’s Day.

Originally, the traditional color of St. Patrick’s Day was blue, yet green found its way into the holiday for an array of reasons: green is associated to the Irish landscape, as well as the shamrocks which were used by St. Patrick for explaining the Christian trinity; and in popular folklore, it was believed green made you invisible to leprechauns, which is why it’s very important to wear it during the parades.

So now you know: don’t forget to wear something green today!



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