St. Patrick’s Day may not ring a bell in your mind, but if you have an Irish friend or relative or even a significant other, this holiday name would be pretty familiar for you.
St. Patrick’s Day is also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick or the Day of the Festival of Patrick. It is considered as both a religious and a cultural festival celebrated all over Ireland. It is celebrated on the 17th of March annually, considered the death date of Saint Patrick’s. You may be wondering, there are many saints, so why does this Saint get a special day all to himself?
The History behind Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick is considered the patron saint, meaning that he was believed to be a heavenly protector of Ireland, a country and island located in the North Atlantic. It was made into a Christian feast during the 17th century and is observed by 4 churches; the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Lutheran Church, and Eastern Orthodox Church. The importance of this day is gauged by the fact that it celebrated the arrival of the religion in Christianity in Ireland while celebrating the cultural heritage of the Irish people.
Who was Saint Patrick?
Saint Patrick was a 5th-century Christian missionary and held the title of Bishop in Ireland. Most of the background information that is known about this religious figure comes from a manuscript that he penned.
From the limited information available, we can understand that he was born sometime in the 4th century to a well-off Roman-British family. He came from a background where his father deacon and his grandfather was a priest in a church which probably influenced his future career in the same direction.
His journey towards religion began when he was kidnapped at 16 by Irish raiders and pushed into slavery. For 6 years, he worked as a shepherd, during which he wrote that he found his reckoning from God. It is no wonder that he is considered the patron saint of Ireland.
Journey of Preaching in Ireland
Soon after, Saint Patrick began preaching and converting Pagan Irish towards Christianity. This was only possible from the mysterious directions given by God to Saint Patrick to run to the coast where a ship would be his ride. This began his career as a priest, and in some time, Saint Patrick had been able to convert thousands of Irish people in Northern Ireland towards Christianity.
His efforts towards preaching and towards the druids were converted into stories and poems stating he drove ‘snakes’ out of Ireland, where snakes signified something evil.
He died on the 17th of March, which is considered St. Patrick’s Day now. With time, folklore grew around him, and he became famous as the guy to have introduced Christianity to Ireland.
How is St. Patrick’s Day Celebrated in Ireland?
Within Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations involve public street parades, traditional music sessions, and people don green attire or shamrocks.
Formal gatherings, balls, and dances were also held in the past as part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. They are still continued in recent years in some Irish groups. Believe it or not, but St. Patrick’s Day parades did not begin in Ireland; they began in North America, which is quite surprising because Saint Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint and not North America’s. Nonetheless, Ireland began the parades 2 centuries after it began in North America, the 20th century. A parade would consist of marching bands, fire brigades, cultural and voluntary organizations, youth groups, fraternities, and the military. Now the parades that are performed resemble more like a carnival.
Moreover, since 2010 famous areas in Ireland have been lit up in green color on St. Patrick’s Day. This was done as part of tourism and Ireland’s ‘Global Green Initiative.’ Talk about getting two targets achieved with one stone.
The custom of Drowning the Shamrock
On St. Patrick’s Day, there is a tradition of drowning or wetting the shamrock that has existed historically for decades. This is a way of concluding the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland by getting a shamrock and putting it in a cup. After which, the cup or glass is filled with any form of beverage such as beer, whiskey, or cider. The drink is then toasted to Saint Patrick or to the people celebrating it.
St. Patrick’s Day Used to Promote Ireland
Since St. Patrick’s Day is an integral festival and holiday native to the Irish population, it has promoted many social and political endeavours. Apart from the fact that landmarks in Ireland were lit up in green for St. Patrick’s Day and to show sustainability, it has also been used in diplomatic missions.
When Irish government ministers travel abroad to countries on official visits, they promote Ireland through St. Patrick’s Day. An example is when the Irish Prime Minister visited the United States President. The visit occurred around St. Patrick’s Day. As a result, the Irish Prime Minister brought the American President a Waterford Crystal filled with shamrocks. It has been an ongoing tradition since 1952. The shamrock is not just a symbol for St. Patrick’s Day because Saint Patrick used it as a metaphor to explain the Holy Christian Trinity, but it is also a symbol of the country.
Our Final Thoughts
It was only in 1903 when St. Patrick’s Day was considered an official holiday. You would be surprised to know that the Irish diaspora is more fervently celebrating this day than the people living in Ireland. Even countries like England celebrate this holiday by giving bowls of shamrock to the Irish Guards, who are a regiment of the British army. Even Irish expatriates have arranged a parade in Norway and Russia in collaboration with the Irish embassy.