March 17th marks one of the most glorious days known to every beer-loving, good-time-having samaritan this world over: St. Patrick’s Day. Traditionally speaking, as St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, March 17th was originally held as an important religious day to celebrate his teachings of Christianity, but it has since snowballed into a festive and international celebration. But do you really know what all the hub-bub is about? Who is this Patrick, and why do we drink copious amounts of liquor while wearing green garments in his honour? Well, you’re about to find out.
What you didn’t know about Patrick:
Born around 350-400 A.D., St. Patrick wasn’t originally from Ireland. He was, in fact, captured by Irish Pirates in Great Britain at the age of 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave. After spending 6-7 years on the island, he escaped and returned home to his family. He later came back to Ireland for mission work, and spent his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity. He died on March 17th, 461 AD, which is exactly why March 17th is officially known as St. Patrick’s Day.
Ever wonder why the shamrock is so strongly associated with St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland itself? Mythologically speaking, in his mission to bring Christianity to the people of Ireland, St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) to the High Kings and Irish pagans.
Myth Busted: One of the most famous stories of Saint Patrick is his banishing of the snakes. According to legend, while St. Patrick was fasting, snakes attacked him, and so he chased them all into the ocean, saving everyone from harm. But in reality, there were never any snakes in Ireland. However, it is arguable that this story is told symbolically as snakes often represent evil in literature. The story then represents how Patrick drove the old, evil pagan ways out of Ireland and brought in a new age.
What you didn’t know about Paddy’s Day:
St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented in America by Irish-Americans. The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade wasn’t even in Ireland, but in fact was in New York City in 1762 when the Irish soldiers serving in the British Army held a parade to celebrate their heritage and to reconnect with their Irish roots. The first official parade in Ireland wasn’t until 1931. In fact, in Ireland, the Paddy’s Day celebration has always been viewed more religious in nature. While it became an official holiday in 1903, this celebratory day actually evolved into a national holiday by chance. It was originally just like any other religious feast day, but it just happened to fall during lent. Lent meant abstaining from any personal indulgences, and one of the reasons why St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally a time for feasting and drinking is because all Lenten restrictions are set aside on this day: all bets are off on Paddy’s Day and everyone takes full advantage of this.
Most Christians in Ireland will attend church as they would every Sunday and treat this day as a day of rest to spend with family. Family members would go to church then head home afterwards for a large roast. It is the belief that everybody should have meat for dinner on St. Patrick’s Day both in honour of the festival and as a relief from Lenten abstinence. Also, during St. Patrick’s religious training in France, he was tempted to eat meat and hid some pieces of pork away to divulge in later, thus explaining this tradition. Corned beef and cabbage, shepherds pie, and some potatoes, are about as Irish of dishes as you can find, and are often hauled out for St. Paddy’s Day. Traditional Irish music in the background and a family gathering are other Irish Paddy’s day traditions that have been going on for centuries.
St. Patrick’s Day Customs and Traditions in Ireland:
There are two main customs for St. Patrick’s Day based on old traditions: the wearing of an emblem or symbol and the drowning of the shamrock. The emblems that were worn were a cross (in hats, coats, etc.) or a shamrock. While wearing a shamrock on Paddy’s Day is still used today, the wearing of crosses has died out completely.
The “drowning of the shamrock,” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get drunk off your ass (though it’s much more fun that way). Traditionally speaking, at the end of the day, the shamrock that has been worn in the coat or hat is removed and put into a final glass; and when the health has been drunk or the toast honoured, the shamrock should be picked out from the bottom of the glass and thrown over the left shoulder. During this ritual, people would often refer to a drink as a “Pota Padraig” or “St Patrick’s pot.”
Myth Busted: The wearing of green to celebrate Paddy’s Day doesn’t really have anything to do with ol Patrick. In fact, the colour originally associated with St. Patrick was blue, not green. Consequently, in Ireland, you would be hard pressed to find a pub that served green beer, as this is more of a U.S. and Canadian tradition. The reason we wear green is because green is the colour associated with Ireland itself since the Irish Confederation used the green harp flag in the 1640s. Moreover, St. Patrick’s revelers thought wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns who would pinch anyone they could see (anyone not wearing green). People began pinching those who didn’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns would sneak up and pinch them.
More things you didn’t know:
Having been celebrated for centuries, St. Patrick’s Day has a strong history in Irish culture, and now that you know who this guy really was and why this feast day has turned into, not only a national holiday, but an international celebration, here’s some more fun facts about St. Paddy’s Day that’ll make your knowledge on the subject expert enough to win that t-shirt at pub trivia:
- St. Patrick’s real name is Maewyn Succat
- The amount of money that is spent on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations each year is almost 4.14$ billion.
- As a religious holiday in Ireland, pubs used to remain closed for St. Patrick’s Day until the 1970s.
- It is estimated that as many as 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed on Saint Patrick’s Day, which is up from the usual 5.5 million a day.
- In Irish, Éirinn go Brách roughly translates to “Ireland Forever,” while Sláinte in Irish means “Cheers!”
- Since 1762, 250 000 marchers have traipsed up fifth avenue on foot in New York – the parade still doesn’t allow floats, cars, or other modernized technologies.
- During confederation in 1867, 1/4 of the Canadian population comprised of Irish immigrants.
- The earliest parade to run on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is in Dingle at 6:00am.
- The World’s largest shamrock is in Nebraska, U.S.A.
- Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000.
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