Ireland's national holiday is St. Patrick's Day, which is celebrated on March 17. St. Patrick is Ireland's patron saint and his feast day has become a special occasion, not only for Irish nationals, but also for thousands of people of Irish descent throughout the world. In Ireland, the day begins with church services. Later in the day, parades are held throughout the country. The principal parade takes place in Dublin. Marching bands compete with each other and bands from around the world travel to Ireland to participate in the festivities.

Easter Sunday is celebrated with church services, followed by festive family meals. Children boil and decorate eggs and have contests to see who can eat the most eggs. Easter is also a special day for the military. The Armed Forces hold a parade to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

Midsummer Eve is a celebration with roots in pre-Christian times. It is customary to light large bonfires on this night. Halloween is associated with another pre-Christian celebration called Samhain. On this day, people went outdoors wearing masks and costumes so that evil spirits could not recognize them. Today, children dress up on Halloween, as they do in Canada. Since pumpkins do not grow in Ireland, Halloween Jack-o'-lanterns may be made from turnips.

Christmas celebrations include family dinners, gifts and parties. People decorate their homes with holly, ivy and candles and hang a wreath on the front door. The lighting of the candle is a traditional Irish custom. Families place a candle on a windowsill to welcome Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The youngest child in the family lights the candle. Families attend mass either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning. After the service, the children open their presents.

St. Stephen's Day is the day after Christmas. According to legend, St. Stephen was hiding in a bush to escape from his persecutors when a wren betrayed him. Traditionally, in southern Ireland, boys dressed in costumes go to peoples' homes asking for money to "bury the wren." They may also go "mumming," that is, performing music or skits.

On January 6, families celebrate Epiphany, also referred to as Little Christmas or Woman's Christmas. People bake special cookies and cakes and light twelve candles to honor the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ.

   Did you know?
February 1 is St. Brigid's Day, a church festival and a school holiday. St. Brigid is considered Ireland's second patron saint. On this day, children make crosses from rushes and hang them in their homes for good luck.
January 1 New Year's Day
1st Monday in January Bank Holiday
March 17 St. Patrick's Day
March or April Good Friday, Easter and Easter Monday
1st Monday in May, June and August Bank Holidays
November 1 Day of the Dead/All Saints Day
December 25 and 26 Christmas, St. Stephen's Day