Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. Since 2010, famous landmarks have been lit up in green on Saint Patrick’s Day as part of Tourism Ireland’s “Global Greening Initiative” or “Going Green for St Patrick’s Day”. The Sydney Opera House and the Sky Tower in Auckland were the first landmarks to participate and since then over 300 landmarks in fifty countries across the globe have gone green for Saint Patricks day.
In 1903, St Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland. This was thanks to the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act 1903, an act of the United Kingdom Parliament introduced by Irish Member of Parliament James O’Mara.
The first official, state-sponsored St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin took place in 1931.
The first St Patrick’s Festival was held on 17 March 1996. In 1997, it became a three-day event, and by 2000 it was a four-day event. By 2006, the festival was five days long; more than 675,000 people attended the 2009 parade. Overall 2009’s five-day festival saw almost 1 million visitors, who took part in festivities that included concerts, outdoor theatre performances, and fireworks.
Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have been criticised, particularly for their association with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.