Climbing Croagh Patrick
Climbing Croagh Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Day Traditions in Ireland that You Should Know About

Saint Patrick’s Day is quickly approaching and everyone around the world, including the Irish at home in Ireland, will be celebrating Saint Patrick with a real passion this year.

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Given the large-scale parades that are common in places like New York, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Dublin, London, and so many others, it’s easy to forget that it’s not all about green beer, dressing up like leprechauns, and donning cute t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies.

In Ireland, the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration isn’t simply a celebration of the country’s patron saint.

It’s also about people expressing pride in their Irish culture and the impact that this little island has made across the world.

Here’s a look at how the Irish in Ireland celebrate and what’s behind the St. Patrick’s Day traditions we have come to know the world over.

Ireland’s Patriotic Beginnings

While green is synonymous with Ireland and everything Irish, blue was the color associated with the country long before Saint Patrick’s Day was officially celebrated in Ireland and across the globe.
The flag of the Lordship of Ireland, shown above, dates from the medieval period through to the 16th century. Photo: NsMn – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

In fact, the first flag associated with Ireland was a banner of the Lordship of Ireland in use during the period 1177 through 1542.

That flag was a light blue color with three gold crowns.

When the Crown of Ireland Act became law in 1542, the flag changed to a dark blue color with a silver-stringed gold harp in the middle.

That was known as The Royal Standard of the Kingdom of Ireland and was flown over government buildings between 1542 and 1801.
The official flag of the President of Ireland. Photo: Setanta Saki – Own work. Public Domain,

Today’s Presidential Flag of Ireland, otherwise known as the Presidential Standard, is somewhat similar to the flag mentioned above.

However, the harp that is depicted on that flag is the “Brian Boru” harp, which was selected as the state emblem when the Irish Free State was established in 1922.

While blue was the preferred color of the British Royals, the Irish themselves weren’t fans of the idea and over time, green began to pop up here and there based on their strong belief in St. Patrick’s shamrock as a symbol of their identity.

It wasn’t until several centuries later during the Easter Rising of 1916 that green — and its importance in the Irish flag — became more synonymous with Ireland’s identity.
Photo: Setanta Saki – Own work. Public Domain,

That flag would later become the official flag of Ireland and was recognized by its constitution on Dec. 29, 1937.

Green came to symbolize Ireland’s predominantly Catholic faith, orange is associated with the Protestant faith and the color white is meant to symbolize the peace between them.

Familiar Traditions in Ireland on March 17th

People in Ireland will often pin bunches of shamrock on their lapels.
Pictured above is St. Patricks Church of Ireland Cathedral and less than half a mile away, on the adjoining hill, is its sister St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral. Religious services in both of them is a popular Saint Patrick's Day tradition in Ireland. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Attending church is also a tradition on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland since it is not only a national holiday but also a holy day, with large crowds attending mass and services at the two large cathedrals in Armagh.

Many Irish people may also hike holy mountains associated with St Patrick.
Slemish Mountain in Co. Antrim. Photo courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland.

They include Croagh Patrick in County Mayo and Slemish Mountain in County Antrim.

St Patrick’s Way, a 27-kilometer (16-mile) pilgrim walk in County Down is also popular with locals and tourists.

Book an Aer Lingus Vacation Package to Ireland

Ireland’s Annual Festivities Honoring its Patron Saint

Hosting a number of parades and other merriment is also a Saint Patrick's Day tradition in Ireland.

The biggest parade in Ireland is naturally the one that takes place in Dublin.

That celebration, known as the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, is a four-day celebration of Irish arts, culture, and heritage.

a marching band playing instruments Saint Patrick's Day traditions in Ireland
A band plays in the Dublin St. Patrick's Day Parade. A parade will not take place in Dublin this year. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

There are many St. Patrick’s Day festivals that take place in other cities and towns on the island of Ireland including ones in Galway, Limerick, Cork, Belfast, and in Downpatrick, Co. Down, where Patrick built his first church and where he is buried.

young girls in costume Saint Patrick's Day traditions in Ireland
Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Many St. Patrick’s Day festivals include traditional music, dancing, street theatre, fireworks, and more.

Irish bars are also packed on Ireland’s national holiday, especially in Dublin, where Guinness, Irish whiskey, and Irish coffee are firm favorites.

Enjoy a St. Patrick's Day Trivia Game

Traditional Irish Food Popular on the Emerald Isle's Feast Day

a plate full of egg, tomato, bacon and toast Saint Patrick's Day traditions in Ireland
A typical St. Patrick's Day breakfast. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Many people may start their day off with a traditional Irish breakfast of sausages, Irish rashers, eggs, black and white puddings together with traditional Irish soda bread, one of the Saint Patrick's Day traditions in Ireland.

The traditional corned beef and cabbage, which is popular in the United States on St. Patrick’s Day, is not consumed in Ireland.

The Irish American fare was brought to America during the 19th century when waves of emigrants, used to eating Irish bacon at home, could not find it in the New World and instead found corned beef was a cheaper, more practical substitute.

Even President Abraham Lincoln chose it as his first inaugural luncheon on March 4, 1861.

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th and if so, do you have any traditions that you follow? Let me know in the comments below.


Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

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