March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish patron saint. It´s a cultural festival with a religious origin, which nowadays can also be enjoyed in Spain and other countries around the world.
In today’s post we will tell you who Saint Patrick was, why Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated, and we’ll show you a guide on how and where to celebrate this event it if happen to be in Madrid or any other city in Spain.
Who was Saint Patrick? History and Origins
The origin of Saint Patrick’s day as a festivity, against what many of us thought, was in the United States. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was organized by the Irish population living there, and in fact, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737.
Also, the Irish patron saint, was not Irish, neither was his name Patrick, and he has never been officially canonized by the Catholic Church.
Patrick’s original name was Maewyn Succat, and it seems that although he has been known by several names (Magonus, Succetus and Cothirthiacus), he decided to be called Patricius (which means father of all citizens) when he became a bishop.
His origin was probably Welsh or Scottish, and his birth is dated to around 385-387 AD during the Roman occupation.
At the age of 16, Succat, who had not been particularly devout at the time (he was the son of a deacon of the early Christian church), he was kidnapped by Irish pirates who forced him to work as a slave tending flocks.
This is how he learned the Irish language and customs and how he truly found his faith and became a believer.
To escape to England, he ended up in present-day France, where he acquired monastic knowledge and acquired his new name.
When Patricius grew up, by order of Pope Celestine I, he returned as a missionary to Ireland to spread the Catholic religion, where most of the population was still pagan and believed in druids.
This leads us to one of the most popular symbols of St. Patrick’s Day: the shamrock.
Why is the shamrock the symbol of St. Patrick’s Day?
The shamrock is Ireland’s symbolic plant and is closely linked to its most important national holiday: St. Patrick’s Day.
It is said that St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover to preach about the Holy Trinity mysteries.
Using this plant, the saint demonstrated the central dogma of the Christian religion, which dictates that “the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, nevertheless, there are not three gods, but only one God”.
Further symbols of St. Patrick’s Day are the snakes, because according to the legend, the saint was able to ban these reptiles from the island.
In fact, to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, most Irish people go out onto the streets on March 17 to celebrate the date with symbols representing shamrocks and snakes.
Why is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated?
Nowadays we can see how local or regional festivities of a particular place are often celebrated in other countries, because it is normal that the foreign population gets together to carry on with their traditions in their host country.
St. Patrick’s Day is one such a holiday, which is celebrated worldwide, and Spain, known for its cultural plurality, is one of the countries that has embraced this celebration.
The shamrock began to be used by Succat, as an example to explain the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, becoming a representative image of Catholicism.
Centuries later it also became the representative image of the Irish in their confrontations against Queen Victoria and, consequently, a nationalist icon, representative of Ireland.
For this reason, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the date Succat died, brings together different issues, including religious and nationalistic ones.
The Irish Catholic emigrants, who immigrated to the U.S., were the architects of this celebration, precisely because they were far from their home, Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Ireland
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was not until 1996, but it quickly became the second largest parade in the world, after New York. It featured floats, street entertainers and musicians.
During St. Patrick’s Day it is a tradition to wear a green outfit representing the Emerald Island, one of the names by which Ireland is recognized in a more colloquial way. It is also a tradition to wear hats and clothes of a Leprechaun with shamrocks, a red-haired shoemaker leprechaun, always dressed in green and with a beard.
The Leprechauns come from Irish mythology and represent good luck. They are characterized by being very mischievous and play many tricks, so if you are not dressed in green on March 17, they will pinch you or you might have bad luck.
Also, it is tradition on that day to dance to Celtic music, which is typical for Ireland and to drink a pint of beer.
The beer is a very important beverage in the Irish culture. On St. Patrick’s Day, the typical thing is to drink “black beer”, better known as stout, and it is also common to find green beer naturally coloured to give it the touch of the festivity.
During these days there are parades and musical shows in different Irish cities.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Spain
Spain is known for its cultural diversity and welcomes the traditions of other countries, such as St. Patrick’s Day.
Irish and Spanish culture have a close relationship and in Spain, we like to maintain and care for this “brotherhood”.
In the following, you can discover how you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Spain, Ireland or any other Spanish city, drinking a pint of beer in your favourite pub, among other activities, within the rules and always with responsibility.
St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Madrid
In Spain we have welcomed this tradition with open arms.
In Madrid, this festivity is very important, because it is the city where the largest Irish colony lives.
The most iconic monuments of the city are illuminated with green to celebrate this union and representing Ireland. The pubs become part of the celebration.
For this year 2023, a parade will be held in Madrid with more than 300 pipers that will start in the Plaza Mayor and end at the Royal Palace. Time of the event: 17:00h.
St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Galicia
Andalusia shares, like Galicia, a lot of history with Ireland, especially in the province of Malaga. The Irish circle of the Torrijos association, Torrijos 1831, oversees preserving and promoting Irish traditions.
This association is not only concerned about St. Patrick’s Day, which is always celebrated in high style, it also supports Celtic music groups and promotes academic proposals in collaboration with the University of Malaga.
Likewise, cultural and research awards (such as the George Campbell Award or the Robert Boyd Award) are held to strengthen relations between the two countries.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Valencia
In the Valencian Community, coinciding with the Fallas celebrations, the prices of drinks in bars and taverns are reduced.
In Benidorm, a town in Alicante known for its popularity among Irish and British tourists, also becomes a good destination to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, since streets and pubs are acclimatized for the occasion.
In Cabo Roig (Alicante) there are usually several activities for tourists and locals throughout the day, such as Celtic music concerts, parades or vintage car exhibitions.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Cataluña
In Cataluña, Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter also dresses its streets and premises in green.
Customers attend the party wearing green, as the Irish tradition dictates, and it is typical that parties are organized on boats. Also, there are parades, Celtic and medieval dance workshops and the street performances.
Can you tell us from which city in the world you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and how you celebrate it?
We recommend you to read: