Everyone has heard about the famous St. Patrick’s Day but very few really know the history and facts about why it is celebrated in the whole world. It is celebrated on a yearly basis on the 17th of March in the observance of the death of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. It was nothing less than a religious feast back in the 17th century, however, now it has evolved globally into multiple festivals that celebrate the Irish culture and religion such as, special food, music, dance, parades, beer, and a lot of green!
What is St. Patrick’s Day?
It is known as a cultural and religious ceremony in Ireland, which is held on 17th of March every year. It marks the death of the foremost patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick (AD 385-461). It was announced as an official Christian feast day in the early days of the 17th century. The day itself commemorates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and is known for celebrating the heritage and culture of Ireland itself. It is a public holiday in Ireland where people are to be seen wearing green all day to celebrate the day. This day is known to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival.
Who Was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick is known as the “Patron Saint” of Ireland who is regarded as the person who brought Christianity to Ireland. Born in Britain (NOT in Ireland), he had Roman parents. His father was a deacon. However, Patrick himself was not much of a believer. This only lasted until he turned 16 years of age and got captured by Irish pirates and got enslaved.
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During the six years that he had been enslaved, he worked as a shepherd. It was not until this time that he decided to convert to Christianity. He tried to escape the Irish pirates but failed and this time got captured by the French. While he was in France, he studied all that he could about monasticism. After getting released and sent back to Britain, he continued to study Christianity throughout his twenties.
He claimed that he has a vision that guided him to spread Christianity amongst the Irish people. Thus, he got onto his way to Ireland where he started preaching Christianity and thus, the title of “Patron Saint”. It was him who popularized the Shamrock (the three-leafed plant). He used it to preach the Irish people the concept of the Christian Holy Trinity. Irish people consider the number three very highly. Thus, it helped St. Patrick win a lot of Irish people.
St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
Even people, who do not have any link with Ireland or the Irish culture, end up celebrating this Irish national holiday. It can be done in the form of wearing clothes of the color of the Irish flag or in the form of enjoying the traditional Irish stew or perhaps a pint of black Guinness. Every day, more than 10 million glasses of Guinness is sold and about 2 billion every year. However, on this day the number is way higher.
Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is known as the most renounced thing to do, which is linked to the sympathy with Irish independence, which took place in the 18th century. People however also wear orange and white which are colors of the Irish flag apart from green.
Until the 1970s, on St. Patrick’s Day, all the pubs would be shut down in Ireland as it was celebrated as a religious public holiday. The obligation to abstain from meat would also be lifted.
In Chicago, the river is turned green to commemorate the death of St. Patrick every year. It is dated back to 1962 where the 5-hour process is completed by using 40 pounds of green vegetable dye being tipped into the river by a boat.
Other countries support by turning their buildings green for the day – such as the London Eye, Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt, Sydney Opera House in Australia, Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Trinity College in Dublin, HMS Belfast in London, and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro.
Why People Wear Green on this day?
Although, St. Patrick’s Day was associated with the color blue, green is the color associated with his day. This has several reasons linked to it, which include Ireland’s nickname being “Emerald Isle” (Emerald is a green colored precious stone), having green in the Irish flag, and green being the national symbol of Ireland. Also, the country itself has a lot of greenery.
According to the Irish people, green is associated with the Catholics and orange is associated with the Protestants. On the Irish flag, these two colors are separated by white, which acts as a symbol of peace between the two.
Four Myths about St. Patrick
Although there are many myths about St. Patrick, the four most important ones have been discussed here with links to the history of Ireland.
St. Patrick was the person who single-handedly is responsible for the conversion of Irish people to Christianity. However, historians believe that there were Christian believers in Ireland before Patrick arrived in the country to preach the religion. Ireland was also known to have strong links with the Roman Empire, and thus, the religion is thought to be likely to have been spread before his arrival.
The Pagan druids are believed to be defeated by St. Patrick. However, this “STORY” is said to have been invented by a cleric who lived two centuries later.
Snakes had been driving out of the country by St. Patrick. It is true that there are no snakes in Ireland apart from those that are kept as pets or are seen in zoos. However, possible explanations for these include: that there never were any snakes in the first place; or the last Ice Age was too cold for the snakes to survive and it was due to the Irish Sea that they could not breed.
The Holy Trinity was explained by St. Patrick using the Shamrock. The Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit are explained using the three leaves of the Shamrock. It is, however, believed to having been invented by experts years later.
Facts About St. Patrick’s Day
Patrick died on 17th March.
Being a saint of the Catholic Church, St. Patrick’s Day is the holy day that commemorates the death anniversary of St. Patrick. Rather than celebrating his birth, his death is celebrated on the 17th of March every year known as St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick was not Irish
Not having been born in Ireland, Patrick was NOT Irish. He has Roman citizen parents who lived in modern-day England; or precisely Scotland or Wales. He was born at the time when Christianity was spreading fast all over Europe.
St. Patrick was a slave
Having the misfortune of being kidnapped at the age of 16, he herded sheep during the time of his enslavement. During his mid-twenties, however, he worked towards learning more about God.
St. Patrick used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity
Although the Shamrock is used to symbolize love, faith, and hope, it was used by Patrick to show the connection of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which are three different things but can be found together as one.
It is said that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland
There is no solid evidence of this fact as it is believed that the climate of Ireland is too cold for snakes to survive. Also, there is no record of snakes existing before Patrick’s arrival in Ireland.
St. Patrick’s color is blue
Although we see people wearing green on this day, which is not his color. Patrick is associated with the color blue as in many artworks he is seen as having been wearing blue vestments.
The Shamrock is not the symbol of Ireland
The Shamrock is a very popular symbol of Ireland. However, it does not wholly represent Ireland. It is the harp that is a representation of Ireland. It was used on Irish gravestones and manuscripts as back as the medieval period. King Henry VIII also used it on the coins as early as 1534. It was later used on the Irish flag and Irish arm coats.
St. Patrick’s Day was a dry public holiday until the 1970s. It was from 1903 till 1970 that the Irish law regarded the day as a religious holiday where all pubs have to be shut down. However, this changed in 1970 when it was classified as a national holiday, which allowed beer to be freely utilized.
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