Exploring the facts about Saint Patrick and why we celebrate
What is Saint Patrick’s Day?
Saint Patrick’s Day is an annual day of celebration when people of Irish heritage around the world celebrate Irish culture and traditions. For Catholics, Saint Patrick’s Day is the feast day of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
Who was Saint Patrick?
Saint Patrick was a Christian who was born in Britain in the late 4th century when it was ruled by the Romans. He is credited with converting the pagan Irish to Christianity and with performing many miracles.
When is Saint Patrick’s Day?
Saint Patrick’s Day falls on 17 March, the anniversary of the day in 461 when Saint Patrick is said to have died.
The St Patrick’s Day books for kids on this page are a fun way to explore with children how and why people celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
As a teacher I find that, although many schools celebrate St Patrick’s Day in some way, most of the children have no idea who Saint Patrick was, why he has a day dedicated to remembering him or why everyone wears green.
So who was Saint Patrick?
What is Saint Patrick’s Day?
And when is Saint Patrick’s Day celebrated?
St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and his feast – or festival – day is celebrated on 17 March each year. Because so many people immigrated from Ireland to countries like the USA and Australia, particularly in the 19th century, these days St Patrick’s Day celebrations are held in many cities around the world.
Saint Patrick was born in Britain in the late 4th century when it was under the rule of the Romans. When he was 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped and returned to Britain but went back to Ireland in about 432 because he wanted to convert the Irish to Christianity. When he died on 17 March 461, Patrick had established many monasteries, churches and schools in Ireland.
Over the years, many legends grew up around Patrick, the most well-known being that he drove the snakes out of Ireland (yep, there are no snakes in Ireland).
Interestingly, Saint Patrick was never actually canonised (made a saint) by the Catholic Church. This is because there was no formal canonisation process in the Church during the first thousand years of its existence. In the early years, the title of saint was bestowed first upon martyrs and then upon people recognised by tradition as being exceptionally holy during their lifetimes, which is why Patrick came to be called a saint.
Saint Patrick’s life is celebrated every year on the anniversary of his death with religious services and, in more recent years, with parades and parties.
The symbols usually associated with St Patrick’s day are:
- the Celtic cross;
- the shamrock;
- the legend that one can find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow;
- the colour green;
The books on this page explore and explain some of these symbols.
Baby’s First St Patrick’s Day is a lovely introduction to St Patrick’s Day for the littlest bookworms. A sturdy board book, this book contains clear, bright images of the symbols and activities which have come to be associated with St Patrick’s Day, along with a basic text (sometimes just one word) to explain them.
Suggested for ages: 0-4 years
If you’re only going to buy or read aloud one St Patrick’s Day book, this book is the one I’d choose. I really love the illustrations and it’s suitable for a wide range of age groups. It does a great job of explaining who Saint Patrick was, why we celebrate his life and some of the legends associated with him. The book begins with the facts about Saint Patrick, describing his life and deeds, before moving on to explain some of the symbols and stories associated with St Patrick’s Day: leprechauns, wearing green, shamrocks, the shillelagh and the harp. It then describes some of the ways people celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Note that the book was written by an American author and the celebrations she describes are those that typically take place in the US, rather than in Australia. The final part of the book is dedicated to the legends which are often told about St Patrick. This book is written without a religious focus and would be a great one to read to your class if you’re a teacher. You could follow it up with one or two of the books below.
Suggested for ages: 4-10 years (but I also learnt a lot from it!)
I have a confession to make: I haven’t actually read this book. It’s a 2019 release and I haven’t been able to get hold of a copy anywhere. So why include it on this list? It looks like a good, factual text and a terrific addition to this list to complement the other books. It looks like it might be a particularly good book to use in the classroom, if you happen to be a teacher.
This is the publisher’s blurb:
This book is packed with fun facts about the origins of St Patrick’s Day. St Patrick, for example, wasn’t even Irish! Readers will learn about past and present traditions surrounding this day of celebration. Today, many cities hold parades, and some local rivers are even dyed green. Each spread features colourful images that encourage readers to make connections with the text. This book will help students appreciate the history of St. Patrick’s Day as well as its festivities.
Suggested for ages: 7-10 years (and up)
This book is not a read-aloud but a how-to book which is great to use with your own children at home or in the classroom if you happen to be a teacher. It works well when introduced after reading a book like St Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons (see the review above) and/or How to Trap a Leprechaun (see the next book on this page). Once your kiddos have been introduced to leprechauns and to their significance in Irish folklore, they’ll be very interested in the idea of actually building a trap for a leprechaun.
The projects in this book offer step-by-step instructions which are easy for children to follow, either with the help of an adult (for the 4-6-year-olds) or on their own. There are different levels of difficulty for each project and 16 traps to build so the book can be used over and over again as children grow or, for teachers, with various classes. For teachers and homeschoolers, specific STEAM connections are described and the illustrations clearly show each step.
Suggested for ages: 4-10 years
This is a cute rhyming text which shows why leprechauns are an important part of Irish folklore. It works well when teamed with two other books on this page: St Patrick’s Day and How to Build a Leprechaun Trap. Read St Patrick’s Day first to get an overview of who Saint Patrick was and why we celebrate St Patrick’s Day , then read this book to deepen your child’s knowledge of leprechauns and Irish folklore. Follow up with a fun, hands-on activity by building a leprechaun trap together, using How to Build a Leprechaun Trap.
Suggested for ages: 3-7 years
How to Catch a Leprechaun is another rhyming text, this time written from the leprechaun’s point of view as he visits houses to create mischief and encounters different kinds of leprechaun traps. But the leprechaun is too clever and has never yet been trapped. Will a clever child one day design a trap that will succeed?
Suggested for ages: 4-10 years
Little fans of Curious George will enjoy this cute rhyming book and it does a good job of highlighting some of the symbols and activities which are traditionally associated with St Patrick’s Day. The tabs on the side are a fun way to access the pages about things like catching a leprechaun, dressing up in green and shamrocks.
Suggested for ages: 2-4 years
That’s What Leprechauns do is actually not a book about St Patrick’s Day but I snuck it in because it’s such a lovely book and it’s suitable for older kiddos (up to about 7 or 8) as well as younger children. It’s the story of three leprechauns who set off to place a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, creating mischief as they go because that’s what leprechauns do. The illustrations are very cute and I love the way the author has written the conversations between the leprechauns (read them with an Irish accent!) I also love that the michief the leprechauns get up to is fun, rather than nasty, and that the leprechauns are good-natured and well-intentioned. This is a lovely story to use as a follow-up to one of the other books about St Patrick’s Day which introduce children to the role played by leprechauns in Irish folklore. An explanation of this role is included after the story.
Suggested for ages: 3-7 years
This cute board book begins with information about St Patrick’s Day – when it is and how we celebrate it – and goes on to tell the story of Saint Patrick’s life and deeds with a Christian/Catholic focus. It then explains some of the symbols and activities associated with St Patrick’s Day. Because this is a board book, older children may dismiss it as a baby’s book but the information it contains is actually great for older children too and I think the illustrations and text are appealing and well-executed.
Suggested for ages: 3-6 years
This book tells the story of Patrick’s life with a Christian/Catholic focus. It described how Patrick was born in Britain, how he ended up in Ireland and how he escaped, including the miracles he is believed to have wrought and the way God is believed to have answered his prayers. The book ends by retelling some of the legends which are commonly told about Saint Patrick.
Even if you’re not religious, I think this is a good book to share with children. There is lots of historical detail and you can discuss which parts are likely to be true and which parts may not be, etc. You can also use the book to discuss legends, factual texts and fiction and the similarities and differences between them. If you are religious, this is a great book to use to introduce children to the life and deeds of this important saint. The book is well-written and I think the illustrations complement the text very well.
Suggested for ages: 5-10 years (even up to 12 or above – I learnt a lot)
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Over to you
Does your family and/or your children’s school celebrate St Patrick’s Day?
Have I missed one of your favourite St Patrick’s Day books?
I’d love to hear what you think so drop me a line in the comments.
I’m Felicity. I write about children’s books and reading and about their potential for enriching the lives of young humans.
I review picture books, board books and sometimes books for older children.
As well as being a lover of all things to do with books and reading, I’m a mum of three young adults and a primary school teacher. I also create gift baskets filled with the very best books for children from newborns to four-year-olds.
Welcome. It’s nice to meet you.