Americans mostly recognize St. Patrick’s Day as a day to dress up in green, drink plenty of beer, and of course, party all night long! However, Saint Patrick’s Day didn’t really start out as 24 hours of rave and shamrock-waving festivity. 

In fact, it’s origin can be traced back in Ireland during the late 4th century. What started out as a religious observation became the world’s biggest celebration of everything Irish.

The Patron Saint of Ireland

St. Patrick, was actually born Maewyn Succat, was a Roman citizen residing in Britain who was taken to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate where they captured and held captive for six years.

He escaped and went back to England for religious training. He was sent back to Ireland as a missionary around year 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. When he became a priest, he changed his name to Patricius, or Patrick, which is the Latin word for “father figure”.

He established numerous churches, monasteries, and schools. Legends also claimed that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. He was granted sainthood before his death on March 17, 461. However, it wasn’t until 1631 that the Church established a feast to honor Ireland’s patron saint. But since St. Patrick’s Day falls as the same month as the Lenten season, it gave Christians a break from abstinence. 

By the 1700s, the holiday started to take a more festive turn that its founders had originally intended. Ireland then came to celebrate his day with religious services and feasts.

It was emigrants, particularly those who resided in the United States, who transformed this religious observation into a large Irish festivity. US cities with a large number of Irish immigrants (who often wielded political power) staged the grandest celebrations including elaborate parades. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day in 1737. New York City followed then after in 1762. 

In 1962, Chicago started coloring its river green to mark the holiday. Though, originally, it was the color blue that was first identified with St. Patrick’s Day as it’s also the color that adorned the ancient Irish flag. It was only after the 1798 Irish Rebellion that the color green was associated with the holiday. 

During the Irish Rebellion, the rebels wore green to set them apart from the British, who were clothed in red. Green has since then symbolized Ireland and the Irish to the rest of the world.  As well as shamrocks (Irish National Plant) which legend says St. Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity.

In the United States, Irish and non-Irish alike wear green clothing or wear something green like a shamrock to mark the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Cabbage and corned beef were also associated with the event. Some pubs also dye their beer green. The Irish eventually adopted these practices but they did so mostly for the benefit of tourists.

In San Diego, shamROCK became a small success story that grew into one of San Diego’s favorite St. Patrick’s Day events. This year, shamROCK returns on March 14th from 2 PM to Midnight to draw more than 20,000 attendees from all over the United States, with genuine Irish revelry, green beer, jigging, and of course an amazing lineup of live entertainment!  Get in on the fun, buy your tickets today.