The jolly green holiday of Saint Patrick's Day, associated with shamrocks, Guinness and often fancy dress, has much older roots than you might imagine. The story dates back to 387 AD, to a Romano-British missionary who was captured by Irish pagans and taken to the Emerald Isle to be a shepherd. After finding God, he became a priest, converting thousands to Christianity. Venture out in any major European city on 17th March and you'll almost certainly find festivities celebrating this legendary saint underway.
The Saint Patrick's Day Story
Where did it all start?
Saint Patrick is Ireland’s foremost patron saint. He's credited with ridding Ireland of snakes (although it's likely this is an allegory as the country isn't known for its reptile population). He did, however, baptise people, ordain priests and encourage followers to the Catholic Church, building schools and monasteries. The story of St Patrick tells us he died around 17th March in the year 493. He is buried under Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Ireland.
How do people celebrate?
Traditionally, St Patrick’s Day was a feast day for the Catholic church and some people still plan pilgrimages to the Purgatory in County Donegal. Outside of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in a number of ways, from dressing up in green to food and beer festivals to a sing and dance at the local pub. Indulging in well-loved Irish food and drink is another way to mark the occasion; rustle up some Irish brown bread or potato bread, beef and Guinness pie, Irish stew and potato soup for a traditional feast. Irish coffee and a pint of Guinness are the tipple of the day.
Everybody from church communities to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and of course the Irish Guards from the British Army, celebrate St Patrick’s Day in their own way. The most famous parade is held in Dublin, naturally, completely engulfing the city. If you visit New York or London, Malta or Spain (and many other countries besides), you’ll find the spirit of the St Patrick’s Day story being kept alive there too. The Chicago River has even been turned green for the occasion in the past.
Should you celebrate?
Absolutely. This is a cheerful and fun-loving celebration, and you can show your appreciation for the St Patrick's day story with festive home decorations. Subtle touches can brighten your home in the sometimes dreary, still-dark month of March. If in doubt when it comes to St Patrick’s Day decorations, simply add shamrocks. Anything from a four-leaved clover in your button hole, to homemade hanging shamrocks or garlands on your front door will do the trick.
Green bottles can act as festive vases for fresh flowers, or create or buy some gold dinnerware for a bright table. Plenty of greenery about the house will get you in the spirit, as the St Patrick’s Day story is, after all, set in lush, verdant Ireland. A fresh wreath of spring flowers and shrubs makes the ideal centrepiece for your table. And why not add a smattering of chocolate coins (as if spilled from a leprechaun's crock of gold)? For more spring touches, take a look at our inspiring interior ideas for the coming season.