St. Patty’s Day or St. Paddy’s Day: What Spelling Is Correct?

Imagine using the wrong name for a holiday amid the festivities of one of the most popular celebrations each year. Every year in March, millions of people (or more) in the United States make that exact mistake. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish regardless of their heritage, but most genuinely Irish folk usually prefer everyone choose correctly between the terms St. Patty’s Day or St. Paddy’s Day.

Which Nickname Is Correct?

Not everyone wants to spend their time welcoming all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. The phrase can be a tongue twister for some, and even more so if the celebration includes sampling green beer. Shortening it is acceptable, but it means knowing which version to use. Some people use either St. Paddy’s Day or St. Patty’s Day. It is a small difference, but it does matter because only one version is correct.

Anyone wanting to impress their Irish friends should choose St. Paddy’s Day. Paddy is the shortened version of Pádraig, the Latin and Irish version of the English name Patrick. Some may assume Patty is also acceptable because it seems like an apt nickname for someone named Patrick, but the Irish reserve that nickname for Patricia.

How to Remember the Difference

People may have some difficulty remembering the correct nickname of a day celebrated only once a year. Knowing Paddy is the nickname for Padraig may not be enough to make it memorable. Luckily, the correct and incorrect versions of the name sound very much alike. A small slipup is likely to go unnoticed by other revelers. Many Americans have no awareness of the difference and may even think that Patty is the right choice. The error is more noticeable when put in writing. Anyone worried they might forget the correct spelling may want to forgo writing the shortened version and stick with wishing everyone a happy St. Patrick’s Day instead. However, an easy way to remember the difference is to know that St. Paddy’s Day is a drinking holiday so “d” for drinking will help you remember.

Americans have a knack for borrowing what they like from other cultures. The trend usually includes some tweaking of the customs to make them more enjoyable or relevant to people in the United States. The celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day are an example of this, and the use of either St. Patty’s Day or St. Paddy’s Day will rarely affect the joyful atmosphere.

How St. Patrick’s Day Started

Patrick, born and raised in Roman Britain, arrived in Ireland as a slave at age 16. Patrick was the son of a wealthy deacon. Irish raiders kidnapped him while burglarizing the estate belonging to his parents. The frightened young man leaned on his Christian background for strength during his time away from home. According to St. Patrick’s later writings, about five years after the kidnapping, the voice of God told him it was time to go home. He escaped shortly after hearing the voice and walked an estimated 200 miles to the coast of Ireland. From the seaside, he successfully made his way across the North Sea and back to Britain.

Once home, Patrick studied religion for more than 15 years until he returned to Ireland as a priest. Patrick included many of the pagan traditions of those living in Ireland in his teachings about Christianity. His inclusion of their culture into his teachings, rather than the insistence that everyone stops their old ways and convert, made him extremely popular.

Many of the stories of the miracles performed by St. Patrick are myths. Patrick ministered to people rather than spend his days driving snakes out of the country. The stories became a part of the oral storytelling culture of the pagans. The tales helped to impress on others the importance of St. Patrick’s work. His popularity throughout the country led to the people proclaiming him a saint. The title remained despite the Catholic church never formally canonizing him.

When Celebrations Began

St. Patrick’s Day became a day of celebration in Ireland around the 9th or 10th century. The day chosen for the event was March 17th because it was the day St. Patrick passed away in about 460 A.D. It is the same date people around the globe use today. The observances of the day in Ireland did not include parades and pub crawls but a feast. Ireland was not even the first to hold a parade in honor of its patron saint. The first-ever recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was in 1601 in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The same city held a feast a year earlier to celebrate the saint. The festivities were thanks to the efforts of Ricardo Artur, an Irish vicar living in the then-Spanish colony.

New York City picked up the reins about 100 years later when homesick Irish laborers wanted to celebrate their culture. Marking the day with a massive parade became an instant tradition that remains a much-loved annual event. New York City now experiences an estimated 3-4 million viewers who line the streets to watch the parade.

Apostrophe or Not?

Since Patrick was a real person and the day is celebrating him, we use the singular possessive for the holiday so there is an apostrophe in St. Patrick’s Day that comes before the “s”. This is also true for the shortened St. Paddy’s Day.

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