Initially, St. Patrick’s feast day was a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland. Because the church calendar avoids observing saints’ feast days during Holy Week, the church has been known to move its St. Patrick’s observation to different days. In 2008, it was held on March 14, in order to avoid coinciding with Palm Sunday. The next time St. Patrick’s Day will fall within Holy Week is 2160.
Regardless of when the church observes St. Patrick’s Day, the secular holiday is always March 17.
St. Patrick’s Day did not become an official public holiday in Ireland until 1903. Until the mid-1970s, pubs and bars in Ireland were required to be closed on March 17.
In the mid-1990s, the Republic of Ireland began a campaign to showcase St. Patrick’s Day as part of the Irish culture with a St. Patrick’s Festival. The festival, now five days long, draws about 1 million tourists each year.
Here's how other countries celebrate the holiday:
* Argentina — All-night parties are held on designated streets. People drink beer and dance throughout the night.
* Canada — Montreal has held a St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1824. CelticFest is held in Vancouver. Manitoba hosts a three-day festival of Irish culture and music.
* Great Britain — Queen Elizabeth used to present bowls of shamrocks flown in from Ireland to the Irish Guards. Today the guards still wear shamrocks flown in from Ireland. St. Patrick festivals and parades are held in Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Coatbridge and Glasgow.
* Japan — St. Patrick’s parades are held in nine cities in Japan. The first was held in 1992 in Tokyo.
* New Zealand and Australia — Parades, drinking and merry-making in the streets are from early afternoon until late at night.
* Russia — The first St. Patrick’s parade was held in 1992. Since 1999 Moscow and other Russian cities host an international Saint Patrick’s Day festival complete with a military parade and carnival-type entertainment.
* South Korea — The Irish Association of Korea has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since 1976.