It’s almost here! The time for green and shamrocks, bagpipes and beer. St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s a day for both Irish and Non-Irish people to celebrate, a day of joy and festivities where we come together to celebrate the history and heritage of Ireland, and pay respects to St. patrick.
We’ve all celebrated in our own ways, but do you know the history behind the holiday? For example, did you know “Saint Patrick” wasn’t even irish? Or that it’s actually considered a holy Christian holiday, where drinking wasn’t even allowed until 40 years ago?
Let’s Delve into some history and facts of St. Patrick’s day, origins, and traditions. Maybe it will inspire you to add some of these traditional activities and history lessons into your celebrations this year!
St. Patrick was born in Britain around 400 A.D.
When he was 16, he was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders and brought to Ireland where he lived as a slave for 6 years. During this time, he learned fluent Gaelish, and turned to religion for comfort becoming a devout christian.
After 6 years of slavery he escaped, walking over 200 miles and boarding a ship back to britain. He studied under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre in France, to help combat paganism, and was ordained a priest and given the name “Patercius” or “Patritius” from the Latin, meaning father of his people. St. Patrick traveled back to Ireland to teach Christianity to the Irish. St. Patrick died on March 17, 460 A.D.
How St. Patrick’s Day started
March 17th became St. Patrick’s Day, or Feast Day of St. Patrick to commemorate his death on March 17th, 461 AD. Since around the ninth or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17.
It was emigrants, particularly to the United States, who transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday of revelry and celebration of things Irish. Cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants staged the most extensive celebrations, which included elaborate parades. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. Since 1962 Chicago has coloured its river green to mark the holiday.
In the centuries following his death, the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: Perhaps the most well-known legend of St. Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. This is why the Shamrock is one of the main symbols of the holiday.
Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
Irish music is also very much a part of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, as the Celts had an oral culture, where religion and history were passed from one generation to another in the form of songs and stories.
Today, St. Paddy’s day is celebrated all over the world in a variety of ways.
In the United States, we cover everything in green and shamrocks, gather in large groups with huge festivities and parades, and drink traditional irish beers. Chicago even dye’s the river green every year to celebrate.
Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants each.