The History Behind the Holiday St. Patrick’s Day

Written by Caitlynn Woods (Features Writer)

Saint Patrick’s day is an annual, cultural holiday that is primarily celebrated by people of Irish descent but is also celebrated by people of other cultures. This holiday was dedicated to Saint Patrick, the greatest patron saint of Ireland. The celebration occurs on Saint Patrick’s death date, which was on March 17th, 461 A.D. Saint Patrick’s day was also the celebration of when Christianity came to Ireland, making it a religious holiday as well.

However, interestingly enough, Saint Patrick, the symbol of Christianity in Ireland, was neither born a Christian or from Ireland. Saint Patrick was actually born in Britain and was a part of the Roman Empire. He was then kidnapped by Irish raiders when he was sixteen years old and spent the next six years in captivity. During his captivity, he converted to Christianity and eventually got out, moved into Ireland, and worked as a Christian missionary. When Saint Patrick first died, he was long forgotten about and was not recognized for bringing Ireland towards Christianity until centuries later when legends grew and he was traced to be the face of Ireland’s Christianity.

Many Irish myths also say that Saint Patrick drove all of the snakes off the island of Ireland, however, there were never any snakes, to begin with since the water surrounding the island was far too cold for any sort of migration, so this was impossible. Instead, Saint Patrick removing the snakes from Ireland is often symbolized as Saint Patrick removing paganism, which was a belief in polytheism.

As well as the myth pertaining to snakes, there is also a belief that Saint Patrick used three-leaf clovers to symbolize the holy trinity while working as a Christian missionary. The people of Ireland then began to wear clovers in his honor, which eventually turned into the wearing of the color green on Saint Patrick’s day. This is how one of the most famous Saint Patrick’s day traditions originated.

Another tradition held on Saint Patrick’s day would be the parades all around the world. The largest parades happen in New York, with around two million individuals attending. An issue with having such large gatherings, however, would be the covid-19 pandemic. The lockdowns left the parades postponed and canceled in 2020 and 2021. Regularly, bright, fluorescent green would rampage streets, and music would blast, played by bands in the parades.

Traditional Irish music usually includes instruments such as the fiddle, the tin whistle, the flute, and the Uilleann pipes. Instruments like the button accordion and the concertina made their way into Irish music in the 19th century as well. Irish music by artists like The Dubliners, U2, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor, and more, is played on Saint Patrick’s day, next to the older Irish music.

While the classic Irish music plays in the background, the foods most commonly eaten on Saint Patrick’s day are corned beef and cabbage. Originally, Saint Patrick’s day dinner was bacon and cabbage. During the potato famine in Ireland, the Irish people who immigrated to New York soon learned that a cheaper alternative to bacon was corned beef; turning corned beef into a traditional Saint Patrick’s day dinner.

Similar to cabbage and corned beef being a symbol of Saint Patrick’s Day, Leprechauns are one of the most prominent faces of the Irish culture. The legend of the mischievous Leprechaun began in the 13th century, Ireland. According to Irish folklore, Leprechauns are extremely cranky creatures who live alone and make and fix shoes to pass by the time. Since there are no female Leprechauns, they are said to have come to be, as the children of fairies.

It is widely known that if you fail to wear the color green on Saint Patrick’s day, you will be pinched. This is actually meant to symbolize the mischievous Leprechauns pinching anyone they see on Saint Patrick’s day, however, individuals in green become invisible to the Leprechaun eyes. On a different note, the ideology that Leprechauns sit at the bottom of rainbows with a pot of gold is completely false. In fact, these mythical creatures were humble and as mentioned earlier, they were only shoemakers.

To briefly conclude, Saint Patrick’s day is a vibrant holiday with a long and interesting history behind it all. Alongside the fun myths and legends is a beautiful holiday celebrating the coming of Christianity to Ireland and a very well recognized icon to Irish culture, Patron Saint Patrick.

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