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Why Do North Americans Love St. Patrick's Day?

March 6, 2023

This post is in the For Students area of our blog. If you are a teacher, you can share it with your students for extra reading practice. The audio features an Irish accent.

St. Patrick’s Day may have originated in Ireland, but it is incredibly popular in the United States and Canada. Why? Because many North Americans are of Irish descent, which means that their ancestors came from Ireland.

What brought the first Irish people to North America?

Before the US gained independence, it was a collection of 13 British colonies. Many Irish people left their homeland because of religious conflict and poverty. Some of them came to the colonies as part of the British army, and some were indentured servants.

There were so many Irish people in the colonies by 1762 that New York City held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade!

A second wave

In the early 19th century, the potato had become a staple of the Irish diet. However, in 1845, the potato crops in Ireland began to fail, leading to starvation. This period was known as the Irish Potato Famine, and it brought another wave of Irish immigrants to North America.

Because Ireland and Canada were both part of Britain at the time, tickets to Canada were less expensive than fares to the US. While many Irish chose to call Canada home, others found the financial resources to make their way to the US. The transatlantic journey was difficult. In the mid-1800s, it took 12 weeks to cross the ocean by boat.

What's it like now?

Nowadays in the US, approximately 26% of the population has Irish ancestors or relatives, and more than 13% of Canadians are of Irish heritage. It’s no wonder St. Patrick’s Day is so popular in these places!

Writing challenge: Write a comment using the words "ancestors" and "heritage" to describe something interesting about your family or culture.


  • ancestors: family members from the past
  • indentured servants: people who had to work without a salary for seven years to pay for their travel to America
  • famine: an extreme shortage of food that leads to widespread hunger
  • heritage: the culture and traditions of a person’s parents and grandparents
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Comments (2)

Chelsea C.(Teacher)

Thank you for this post! I've always wondered about that, and this totally answered my long time query! Cheers!

Reply to Comment

Lara Henerson(Ellii Staff)

I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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