March 17, 2017 8:00 am
Updated: March 17, 2017 1:54 pm

Whatever you do, don’t commit these St. Patrick’s Day faux pas

WATCH: Green beer? A four-leaf clover? None of these belong on St. Patrick's Day, according to the Irish.


As you prepare for a green-tinted night of shamrocks and Guinness, you may want to consider forgoing some of the North American-derived St. Patrick’s Day traditions in honour of your Irish friends.

And for the love of Ireland, put down the green beer.

Millions of people around the world dress entirely in green, celebrate with parades and parties, clink pint glasses and make jokes about leprechauns on St. Patricks Day. Some forget though, that the day is a religious holiday in Ireland.

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Today’s beer-laden celebrations have little to do with the person the holiday is named after – Saint Patrick (who, for the record, was born in Britain, not Ireland), who was abducted as a young boy and sold into slavery. After escaping, he became a priest and dedicated his life to spreading Christianity throughout Ireland, eventually being named the patron saint of the country.

While a typical St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland does involve a lot of celebratory partying, the national public holiday usually begins with a visit to church.

But, when the Irish do end up at the pub, it looks very different than a Canadian St. Patrick’s Day party.

For one, you’ll never see a green beer.

“That’s like someone putting Cheese Wiz on poutine,” Marina Hannigan, an Irish expat living in Toronto, said laughing.

Hannigan, who had never seen green beer prior to her first Canadian St. Patrick’s Day celebration, warned the green beer craze is especially offensive when the country’s famous stout Guinness is involved.

READ MORE: Is Green beer safe? Tips for staying healthy on St. Patrick’s Day

Sarah Collins – who lives in Ireland, but spent five years in Toronto – noted that you won’t see anyone dressed in head-to-toe green during a celebration in Ireland.

“[Canadian celebrations] are more so than the Irish themselves – everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” Collins said.

“I found it strange, but I also found it kind of incredible that so many people celebrate it in such a big way.”

St. Patrick’s Day parties sometimes have the tendency to get out of hand. For example, police in London, Ont. have planned a social media campaign called “Don’t invite us to your party,” for this year’s celebrations, noting open liquor in a public place, public intoxication, and public urination charges are frequently laid by London police on St. Patrick’s Day.

But that shouldn’t represent how the Irish like to party, said Collins.

“The judgement that Irish people get drunk all the time… don’t get me wrong, Irish people like to party, but I think it’s a generalization,” she said.

It’s a stereotype that does not sit well on the minds of Irish Canadians and Americans, said Gearoid O Hallmhurain, professor in Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia University, noting that greeting cards have been guilty of advertising “drunken Irish debauchery” as acceptable St. Patrick’s Day behaviour.

Another thing we should straighten out – four leaf clovers have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, the three-leafed Shamrock is the correct symbol.

Tradition says Saint Patrick used the Shamrock to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity.

Dear Canadians: Stop saying “St. Patty’s Day”

But Hannigan and Collins both agree, nothing stings more than hearing the rally cry of “St. Patty’s Day.”

“The ‘Patty’ is for a woman – Patricia,” Hannigan explained – and Saint Patrick was certainly not female. The correct pronunciation and spelling would be, “St. Paddy’s Day,” because Paddy is derived from Pádraig, the Irish name for Patrick. Patty is derived from Patricia.

READ MORE: Who was Saint Patrick?

Anger over our use of the double-t’s even prompted one Irishman living in Canada to create the website

“Like nails on a chalkboard. It gnaws at them. It riles them up. It makes them want to fight… you know, more than usual,” reads the website.

“There isn’t a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as ‘Patty.’ It’s as simple as that.”

Some also argue the “Irish Car Bomb” – a shot of Irish whiskey and Irish cream that’s dropped into half a pint of Guinness – is a little offensive. Car bombs were a popular weapon during the decades long conflict in Northern Ireland. The violence, which took place over a 30 year period from 1968 to 1998 and known as The Troubles, resulted in over 3,600 deaths and thousands of injuries.

So, if you are looking to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with accuracy this year, do yourself a favour and make sure your Shamrock only has three leaves and your St. Patrick’s Day banner has double-D’s.

And remember, stay away from green beer.

Infographic credit: Leo Kavanagh/Global News

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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