St Patrick's Day: Everything you need to know

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WATCH: What is St Patrick's Day?

Millions of people around the world celebrate St Patrick's Day on 17 March every year.

It is a celebration of Irish history and culture, and is a national holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

Who was Saint Patrick?
St PatrickGetty Images

St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and is celebrated for bringing Christianity to the country.

He is thought to have grown up in Britain, during Roman times, but was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave.

Once he was free again, he trained as a priest, and went back to Ireland to convert thousands of people to Christianity.

The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty, but sometime after 431 AD, Patrick was appointed as successor to St Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland.

A shamrock, a symbol of St Patrick's Day and Ireland

Patrick established his headquarters at Armagh. Tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland.

He is traditionally associated with the shamrock, a type of clover and is often pictured holding one.

Did Saint Patrick drive the snakes out of Ireland?

This is one of the famous legends around St Patrick but the chances are it didn't happen, because it's unlikely there ever were any snakes in Ireland.

The snake may be a reference to serpent, a symbol of evil, and the driving out a reference to Patrick's mission to rid Ireland of pagan - or non-Christian religious - influence.

What happens on Saint Patrick's Day?
Irish dancers, Belfast
Crowds enjoy watching the Irish dancers in Belfast

Saint Patrick's Day started as a religious feast to celebrate the work of Saint Patrick, but it has grown to be an international festival celebrating all things Irish.

People take part in parades and dancing, eat Irish food, and enjoy huge firework displays.

The day is also famous around the world for people wearing shamrocks, dressing up as bearded Irish fairies called leprechauns, and wearing all green.

Dublin's famous St Patrick's Parade often features bands from around the world. This year Hollywood actor John C Reilly who voices Ralph in Wreck-It Ralph is due to take part in Thursday's parade.

Here are some of the best shots from past celebrations...
Children waving flags along the paradePA Media
About 50,000 joined in the parade and the festival in London on Sunday 13 March
A reveller in Irish tri colourGetty Images
St Patrick's day is celebrated across the world, especially in America where lots of Irish people moved to for work
Spectators take a selfie at the St Patrick's Day parade in DublinGetty Images
Spectators in Dublin wear leprechauns' hats at the St Patrick's Day parade
Flute players, Belfast
A flute player joins a parade in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Omagh parade
A man dressed as St Patrick himself makes an appearance in Omagh, Northern Ireland where he joined the parade riding down the street pulled by a tractor
A young girl smiling at the cameraAFP
If you don't want to paint your face like this girl, you can always just wear a big smile because St Patrick's day is a happy day!
And sometimes buildings around the world are turned green for the occasion...
The London EyePA
The London Eye
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, LondonPA
Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London
The Trafford Centre in ManchesterPA
The Trafford Centre in Manchester
Empire State Building, New YorkGetty Images
Empire State Building, New York, USA
Reunion Tower in Dallas, TexasTourism Ireland
Reunion Tower in Dallas, Texas, USA
The Ada Bridge in BelgradeTourism Irelnad
The Ada Bridge in Belgrade, Serbia
The Sacre Coeur, ParisGetty Images
The Sacre Coeur, Paris, France
The Chicago river dyed greenGetty Images
Check out the Chicago River, in the US! The river is dyed green every year to celebrate Saint Patrick's day, don't worry about the fish though, the dye is totally environmentally friendly! They might have trouble seeing where they are going though

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