The shamrock became a traditional symbol for St. Patrick's Day because, as legend has it, St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover to explain the concept of the trinity. The three leafs of the clover represent the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which are three pieces of the same unified belief. Thus, the Irish people adopted the shamrock as a St. Patrick's Day tradition, and it is still worn today as a symbol of the holiday.
St. Patrick's Day Tradition 2: Corned Beef and Cabbage
The consumption of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day is a day of exemption from the traditional meat-free rule of Lent. Interestingly, the tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage during St. Patrick's Day is not the original feast of the Irish. The original St. Patrick's Day meal consisted of bacon and cabbage.
When the Irish immigrants settled in America, bacon was a pricier meat considered a luxury. Thus, the St. Patrick's Day tradition was altered to include corned beef and cabbage. The idea to substitute bacon for corned beef was interestingly borrowed from Jewish immigrants. Even though today bacon is easy to find and affordable, the tradition among Irish Americans (and other St. Patrick's Day revelers) has remained in favor of corned beef and cabbage.
St. Patrick's Day Tradition 3: St. Patrick's Day Parade
The tradition of the St. Patrick's Day parade dates back to the mid 1700s, when the Irish contingency of the British and American armies would hold a march to celebrate the holiday. The first large-scale civilian St. Patrick's Day Parade took place in New York City on March 17, 1762, establishing a tradition that still occurs today.
After two hundred years, the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade is the largest St. Patrick's Day parade celebration, attracting over 150,000 participants and over 2 million parade watchers. Other U.S. cities with large-scale St. Patrick's Day parades are Chicago, Boston and Savannah. Every year during Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade, the Chicago River is famously dyed green for a few hours while revelers line the river to get a glimpse of the phenomenon.
For a list of local St. Patrick's Day parades, visit the St. Patrick's Day Parade website.
St. Patrick's Day Tradition 4: The Color Green
Though green is the official color of modern St. Patrick's Day celebrations, this was not always the case. The appropriation of the color green is a shift that happened in the early 1900s. Many of the traditional St. Patrick's Day symbols are green, including shamrocks and leprechauns, as well as the 'unofficial' Irish flag (a green background with a gold harp), which helps explain the importance of the color green.
The tradition of wearing the color green on St. Patrick's Day also appeared during the past few decades, and supposedly stemmed from schoolchildren. If caught without any green on during the holiday, a person is often subjected to a pinch for their negligence to sport St. Patrick's unofficial hue.
Drinking green beer has also become a modern tradition for the St. Patrick's Day holiday. Green beer is created by simply adding a bit of green food dye to regular beer, and is as safe to consume as regular beer.