Happy St Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, we’ve put together a quick primer and some fun facts about the beloved Irish holiday and Ireland’s shipping and trade industries. Once you’re done, go indulge in a little craic to mark the day!

A woman in green at a St Patrick's Day parade

What is St Patrick’s Day?

Amidst all the revelry, the meaning of St Patrick’s Day has been more or less forgotten. At the very beginning, it was an Irish tradition that marked the arrival of St Patrick (Ireland’s patron saint) and Christianity on the Emerald Isle. It was made an official Christian feast day in the 17th century and has been celebrated ever since. Now though, it’s morphed into more of a general celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

St Patrick’s Day 2020

In 2020, as in every year, the occasion is marked on March 17. On the day, cities around the world hold parades and parties to celebrate. Some even have quirky traditions of their own, like Chicago, which dyes the city’s river green. However, in view of the recent coronavirus, many cities, including Chicago and Boston, have decided to call off or postpone their celebrations.

Interesting St Patrick’s Day Facts

  • The first celebration in the US was in Boston in 1737.
  • The original color for the day was blue - now, of course, it’s green.
  • Chicago first dyed its river green in 1962.
  • Guinness is the most popular drink at these celebrations.
  • St Patrick was never canonized by the Pope - so technically, he's not a saint.

Irish Imports and Exports

Ireland relies heavily on trade and does brisk business in imports and exports. In 2019, the country imported $98.1 billion worth of goods, nearly 70% of which came from other European countries. About 90% of Irish trade is conducted by ship and as a result, the country has 13 port companies to handle all its imports and exports.

Ireland’s Top 10 Import Industries

  1. Aircraft, spacecraft: US$21.1 billion
  2. Machinery including computers: $10.9 billion
  3. Pharmaceuticals: $8.2 billion
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: $6.3 billion
  5. Electrical machinery, equipment: $5.8 billion
  6. Organic chemicals: $5.7 billion
  7. Vehicles: $4.2 billion
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $3.1 billion
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: $3.1 billion
  10. Articles of iron or steel: $1.2 billion

Ireland’s Top 10 Export Industries

  1. Pharmaceuticals: US$53.5 billion
  2. Organic chemicals: $35.6 billion
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $15.2 billion
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: $11.7 billion
  5. Machinery including computers: $9.8 billion
  6. Perfumes, cosmetics: $8.8 billion
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $4.6 billion
  8. Other chemical goods: $4.1 billion
  9. Meat: $3.5 billion
  10. Dairy, eggs, honey: $3.4 billion
A Guiness plaque.

Black Velvet
Guinness is probably the best-known Irish export. The beer - a stout - began production at a brewery on St James Gate in 1759. Now, the brewery is known as the Guinness Storehouse and is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. From a small operation, it’s turned into a global empire. In honor of St Patrick’s Day, we’re tracing the global domination of Ireland’s best-loved export.

  • Guinness’s first export operation was six and a half barrels. It crossed the Irish sea to England in 1769.
  • In 1877, Guinness commissioned a fleet of custom barges to move barrels of beer along Dublin’s River Liffey.
  • By the 1820s, it was one of the few Irish breweries shipping internationally, sending Guinness stout to places like Lisbon (Portugal); South Carolina and New York (USA); Sierra Leone; and New Zealand.
  • In the 1890s, the company sent travelers around the world to investigate the markets where Guinness was sold to gather information about its use and product quality.
  • The first overseas brewery was opened in London, England, in 1936.
  • Guinness only started retailing in India in 2007.
  • Now, nearly 40% of Guinness’s total production is consumed in Nigeria
  • The beer is now brewed under license in several countries, including Nigeria, the Bahamas, Canada, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, South Korea, Namibia, and Indonesia - for this, unfermented, hopped Guinness wort extract is shipped from Dublin.
  • Guinness stout is now sold in 150 countries.