Holidays and festivals
Much of the Irish calendar still today reflects the old pagan customs, with later Christian traditions also having significant influence. As in other countries, the date for observing Christmas was deliberately chosen to coincide with the winter solstice. Christmas in Ireland has several local traditions, some in no way connected with Christianity. On 26 December (St. Stephen's Day), there is a custom of "Wrenboys" who call door to door with an arrangement of assorted material (which changes in different localities) to represent a dead wren "caught in the furze", as their rhyme goes.
Brigid's Day (1 February, known as Imbolc or Candlemas) also does not have its origins in Christianity, being instead another religious observance superimposed at the beginning of spring. The Brigid's cross made from rushes on this day represents a pre-Christian solar wheel.
Other pre-Christian festivals, whose names survive as Irish month names, are Bealtaine (May), Lúnasa (August) and Samhain (November). The last is still widely observed as Halloween, followed by All Saints' Day, another Christian holiday associated with a traditional one. Important church holidays include Easter, and various Marianobservances.
The national holiday in the Republic is Saint Patrick's Day, 17 March and is marked by parades and festivals in cities and towns across the island of Ireland, and by the Irish diaspora around the world. The festival is in remembrance to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, and legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of 'three divine persons in the one God'.