What Do the Irish Do on St. Patrick's Day?


1) Wearing shamrocks and the color green are only a few of the traditions observed on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. But not all of these traditions are traditional to the Irish!

2) Bridget Haggerty, whose Irish family lived in England when she was a young girl, developed the Web site Irish Culture and Customs to let people know about St. Patrick's Day, and other Irish customs, from an Irish point of view.

3) "There are a lot of things about the way we celebrate the day in America that used to be considered crazy ... by the Irish," said Haggerty, who now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

4) Americans are used to wearing a lot of green on St. Patrick's Day, for example, to avoid getting pinched. In Ireland, however, wearing too much green is considered to be bad luck.

Why? According to Irish folklore, green was thought to be the favorite color of the Good People (or fairies). The Good People, it was said, would steal people—especially children—who wore too much green!

5) One custom that is authentic is the use of shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. People will wear a sprig of shamrock on their clothing, which the Irish call "the wearing of the green." The Irish believe that St. Patrick used the shamrock, which has three leaves, to explain the Christian idea of the Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).

6) St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Ireland recently have become more similar to ones held in the United States. Haggerty doesn't consider this change to be a bad thing, "if we can adapt the best from each other," she said. The exchange of St. Patrick's Day customs, Haggerty hopes, will lead the Americans and the Irish to a better understanding of each other. And that, said Haggerty, "is good!"

By Jennifer Vernon
National Geographic Kids News