When Is St. Patrick’s Day, and Why Do We Celebrate It?

When is St. Patrick's Day, you ask? Here's the scoop on everything you need to know about this Irish holiday.

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St. Patrick’s Day 2023 is almost here, which means you’re probably starting to think about what green clothing you have in your closet and what Irish movies to watch, or maybe you’re googling how to make Irish Soda Bread and other St. Patrick’s Day recipes. But before you head to your local parade or embark on any other St. Patrick’s Day traditions, you may have a few questions, like when is St. Patrick’s Day? And what’s the history of St. Patrick’s Day? We’ve got those answers for you, along with fun ways to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day this year.

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When is St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick in the fifth century—but more on that later. It’s worth noting that St. Patrick’s Day always falls on the 17th, meaning the actual day of the week changes each year. For instance, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Thursday in 2022, but it will fall on a Friday in 2023. While St. Patrick’s Day is officially observed on the 17th, celebrations may not be limited to just this day.

Is St. Patrick’s Day a federal holiday?

St. Patrick’s Day is not considered a federal holiday in the United States but is still widely observed throughout the country as a celebration of Irish culture. Schools and businesses will still be open as usual. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is considered a public holiday, meaning schools and offices shut down for a day of celebration.

What is the history of St. Patrick’s Day?

Saint Patrick Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images

Before we dive into St. Patrick’s Day history, you’re probably wondering who St. Patrick is, and understandably so. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, best known for bringing Christianity to the land during the fifth century. He was born in Roman Britain and was kidnapped at the age of 16 to be brought to Ireland as a slave. After escaping, he used those challenging years to discover his Christian faith before returning to Ireland to bring Christianity to its people.

Legends surrounding St. Patrick’s death grew as time went on, and his life became more embedded in Irish culture. The most well-known tale about St. Patrick is when he explains the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit using a shamrock with three leaves.

Records show that the people of Ireland have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since the ninth or tenth century and observing it as a Roman Catholic feast holiday. But the very first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place in America in 1601. As the Irish population in America grew, so did the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during the Christian season of Lent, the Irish would typically attend church in the morning and then celebrate the holiday in the afternoon. The sacrifices made during Lent were renounced during this time so people could eat, drink and dance.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the life of St. Patrick on the anniversary of his death, March 17.

How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

As the saying goes, everyone’s a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—so let the bountiful activities begin! These activities are perfect for your St. Paddy’s celebration, whether you’re planning a joyous bash with loved ones or spending the day reflecting on Irish history and contributions.

Attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade

A fun and family-friendly way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to attend a local parade. If you live in the New York area, you have likely heard of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This parade is actually the oldest civilian parade in history and the largest in the United States, with more than 150,000 attendees. You also may have heard of the annual celebration in Chicago, when the Chicago River is dyed green, or any of the smaller parades in Boston, Savannah and Philadelphia. Check your local news to see where the closest parade is to you.

Wear green

If large crowds aren’t your thing, there are plenty of ways to keep your St. Patrick’s low-key, like wearing green on the 17th. Put on a green sweater, T-shirt, hat or other article of clothing to show your festive spirit. If green isn’t your color, no worries—you could sport other St. Patrick’s Day colors instead.

Throw a St. Patrick’s Day party

Gather with loved ones and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Emerald Isle style. Serve traditional Irish recipes for guests, like Irish Soda Bread or corned beef and cabbage. For dessert, bake something yummy and festive, like leprechaun cookies. And don’t forget to go all out with St. Patrick’s Day decorations!

Learn about Irish culture and history

The Irish have a rich culture and history that developed over thousands of years. Learn more about their layered culture and history on St. Patrick’s Day by reading a book, watching a documentary, listening to a podcast or reading an article from a reputable historical source online. Knowing about what—and who—made Ireland what it is today gives more context and appreciation to the holiday and culture. While you’re at it, read a few books by Irish authors and marvel at their way with the written word.

Cook an Irish-themed dinner

What’s a lively celebration without a hearty (and delicious) meal? Fuel your St. Patrick’s Day festivities with delicious traditional Irish recipes like beef stew, shepherd’s pie and colcannon. Your taste buds will thank you.

And listen, we get it—life’s busy, and you may not have time to throw an epic St. Patrick’s Day celebration. You can still share St. Patrick’s Day quotes, St. Patrick’s Day memes and/or St. Patrick’s Day jokes to get in on the fun. Sláinte!

Additional reporting by Kelly Kuehn.


Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.