St Patrick’s Day: what is St Paddy's Day, when is it in 2021 - and how do you say 'Happy St Patrick's Day' in Irish?

This is why the shamrock, traditionally worn on St Patrick’s Day, is a symbol of Ireland

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 11:46 am

St Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over the globe, with millions of people showing their appreciation for all things Irish.

Celebrations last year looked very different to the usual due to the Covid crisis - and in 2021 it will be a similar situation with traditional parades and parties unable to take place.

But despite the pandemic, plenty of people of Irish heritage will still be going all out for the day in their homes.

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St Patrick's Day is celebrated across the world each year (Getty Images)

So, what is St Patrick’s Day, when is it in 2021, how is the national day celebrated - and how do you say “Happy St Patrick's Day” in Irish?

Here is everything you need to know.

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What is St Patrick’s Day?

St Patrick’s day, also known as the Feast of St Patrick, honours Ireland’s patron saint.

Traditionally, the celebration commemorates St Patrick and the crucial role he played in bringing Christianity over to the Emerald isle.

The saint was a fifth century Christian missionary and priest.

It is thought that he was born in Roman Britain, before he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland when he was 16.

He later escaped, but while he was on the island the saint claimed to have “found God”.

This compelled him to return to Ireland years later to convert the Pagan population to Christinaity.

According to legend, the patron saint of Ireland rid the country of snakes by chasing the reptiles into the sea after they started to attack him during a 40-day fast.

But the tale is unlikely, since no evidence of snakes ever existing on the Emerald Isle has been found as they probably couldn’t reach it.

After he died, St Patrick became renowned as a legendary figure and Ireland’s most prominent saint.

St Patrick’s Day is observed by religious branches including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion and the Easter Othodox Church.

It was made an official Christian feast early in the 17th century, before becoming an Irish public holiday in 1903.

The first St Patrick’s Day parade actually took place in America, and not Ireland, on 17 March 1601.

And a century later, homesick Irish soldiers who were serving in the English military marched in New York City to honor their patron saint.

Today’s New York City St Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in the US, with nearly 3 million people lining the streets to watch the procession which takes more than five hours.

When is St Patrick’s Day 2021?

St Patrick's Day is always celebrated on 17 March, which in 2021 falls on a Wednesday.

This marks the date that the Irish patron saint died.

While the national day is not a bank holiday in the UK, or a federal holiday in the US, it is a public holiday in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

How is St Patrick’s Day celebrated?

St Patrick’s Day has grown over the years to become a worldwide celebration of Irish heritage and culture.

Consuming plenty of food and drink is one of the main traditions of the day.

That’s because Lenten prohibitions on eating and drinking alcohol were historically lifted on St Paddy’s so revellers could celebrate.

A traditional Irish food enjoyed on the day is soda bread, whereas people will usually be seen drinking Guinness and whisky.

As for the celebrations, in normal times there would be public parades and festivals, as well as Irish traditional music sessions called “céilithe”.

It has also become a global tradition to light up famous landmarks in the colour green to honour the national day.

The Sydney Opera House and the Auckland Sky Tower were the first to take part in 2010, but the trend has now evolved to include 300 landmarks in 50 countries.

For the second consecutive year, there will be none of the usual celebrations as lockdowns continue and mass gatherings are prohibited.

In 2020, Belfast’s famous parade was shelved while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that all parades and festivals in Ireland would not go ahead.

How do you say ‘Happy St Patrick’s Day’ in Irish?

Part of the annual celebration is wishing each other a “Happy St Patrick’s Day” – but how do you say the phrase in Irish?

The most common way is: “Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!”, which is pronounced “Law leh Paw-drig suna ghit”.

This means “Happy St Patrick’s Day to you”.

Yet the greeting changes slightly when you are speaking to a group of people.

If you’re wishing a “Happy St Patrick’s Day” to more than one person, the word “duit” is changed to “daoibh” which means “to you” in the plural form.

Therefore, the phrase becomes: “Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh”, which is pronounced “Law leh Paw-drig suna yee-uv”.

Why is the shamrock a symbol of Ireland?

An ancient St Patrick’s Day custom is “drowning the shamrock”, which entails placing a shamrock at the bottom of a glass before filling it and finishing the drink as a toast to guests, Ireland or St Patrick himself.

The shamrock became the classic symbol of St Patrick’s Day as legend has it that the saint used the native Irish clover as a metaphor to explain the Christian Holy Trinity.

People often wear the green sprigs on St Patrick’s Day, along with the colour green which has an ancient association with Irish history.

The shamrock has come to represent Irish heritage in general.