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

Updated: Mar. 31, 2024

When is St. Patrick's Day, you ask? Here's the scoop on this festive Irish holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day 2024 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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What is St. Patrick’s Day?

Irish Pipers Band of San Francisco in the St. Patrick's Day parade. ; March 17, 1967San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

St. Patrick’s Day marks the festive celebration of St. Patrick, the beloved patron saint of Ireland. Initially, the holiday was all about religious observances, but over time, it evolved into a secular tribute to Irish culture, especially after Irish immigrants brought their celebrations to the United States. This happened as early as 1762, which also marked the first year of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City.

When is St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Paddy’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 was on a Friday in 2023, and St. Patrick’s Day 2024 falls on a Sunday. 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?

The water in the fountain on the North Lawn of the White House is seen dyed green for St. Patrick's Day in Washington, DCJIM WATSON/Getty Images

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 origin of St. Patrick’s Day?

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

Who was St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images

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.

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! From sharing St. Patrick’s Day quotes to telling a good ol’ St. Patrick’s Day joke, there are various activities that 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

St. Patrick's Day Parade In TorontoChina News Service/Getty Images

A fun and family-friendly way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2024 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 by decking out your home in DIY four-leaf clovers and shamrocks!

Learn about Irish culture and history

feet of Irish dancersRona Proudfoot/Getty Images

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 books by Irish authors, 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.

Cook an Irish-themed dinner

Sláinte! 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.

Additional reporting by Kelly Kuehn.


  • Britannica: “St. Patrick’s Day”
  • History.com: “History of St. Patrick’s Day”
  • Almanac: “St. Patrick’s Day 2024: Who Was the Real St. Patrick?”