As many of you will know, today is St Patrick’s Day.
On March 17, the Irish (and the Irish-at-heart) across the world observe St. Patrick’s Day. What began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has become an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods, and a lots and lots of green.
Those who didn’t indulge in enough revelry on Sunday have today to make up for that!
But what about the origins of St Patrick’s Day… Why is he the patron saint of Ireland? Why do we celebrate the day with so much gusto?
Here’s a bit about the origins of St Patrick’s Day:
Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Lutheran Church. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.
These days though, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations don’t have much to do with the man for which the holiday is named. Nonetheless, he is an important figure in Irish Catholic history.
Ironically, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish.
He was born in Britain around A.D. 390 to an aristocratic Christian family. According to folklore, St. Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland at 16, but, encouraged by a voice in a dream, he escaped and was reunited with his family in Britain. The voice later told him to go back to Ireland, where he then became a priest and spent the rest of his life converting the Irish to Christianity.
Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilithe, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.
On St Patrick’s Day it is customary to wear shamrocks and/or green clothing or accessories (the “wearing of the green”). St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish.
Christians also attend church services, and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which has no doubt encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption – and lots of it.
St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in March the 17th because tradition holds that he died on this date and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.
And speaking of legends…
It’s a common held misconception that St Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but according to the National Geographic, there never were any snakes to drive out, because the water surrounding Ireland is far too cold for them to have arrived there from Britain.
This myth is probably a metaphor then, which pertains to St Patrick ridding the country of its pagan and “old evil” ways.
How are you planning to celebrate St Patrick’s Day today? Let us know in the comments!
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