Saint Patrick’s Day – History and Traditions
Saint Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest celebrations of the Irish culture around the world. Right now Saint Patrick’s Day is only recognized as a public holiday in a few places. This is the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Montserrat. Other places, such as Great Britain, Canada, the USA, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, also celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. The only difference is that these places do not see Saint Patrick’s Day as a formal holiday.
Every year Saint Patrick’s day is celebrated on March 17 to remember the life of Saint Patrick, who the day is named after. Originally, Saint Patrick’s Day started as a religious feast day for the patron saint, Saint Patrick, of Ireland. Saint Patrick became known as the man who brought Christianity to pagan Ireland in the 5th century.
Most of the history and information that is known about Saint Patrick is found in the Declaration that is supposedly written by Saint Patrick himself. Saint Patrick went from being a Romano-British Christian missionary to becoming a bishop in Ireland.
When Patrick was 16 he was captured from his homeland of Britain and taken to Ireland by Irish raiders. He became a slave to Gaelic Ireland and for six years he worked as a shepherd. While he was working as a shepherd he was able to find God, even though before being captured he was already a Christian.
According to the Declaration, God told Patrick to flee from Ireland and get to the coast. When he arrived to the coast a ship would be waiting for him to take him home back to Britain. After getting back home Patrick decided to become a priest.
Patrick later returned to Ireland after a number of years. He went as a missionary to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity and for years he spent his time in north Ireland converting people.
Many think Saint Patrick is remembered for driving all of the snakes out of Ireland that is why there’s no snakes in Ireland. In reality, he never drove the snakes out of Ireland. Driving snakes out of Ireland became an allegory for Saint Patrick’s effort against the druids of Ireland. The druids made up the educated and professional class among the Celtics.
Over the centuries Saint Patrick’s Day has accumulated a variety of symbols. Including the shamrock, music, the snake, and the leprechaun.
In ancient Ireland the shamrock, or the “seamroy” by Celtic, symbolized the rebirth of Spring. Later on when the English began to seize the Irish land, the Irish people would wear shamrocks as s symbol of their Irish pride in their heritage and the displeasure with the English trying to rule them. The shamrock started to become a symbol of Irish nationalism.
While the English still had their rule of the Irish land, the Irish people would use music to help them remember important events and hold onto their heritage and history. The music would stir up emotions and excite people as they played and listened to the music. To keep the people from uprising and things getting chaotic the English began to outlaw music to control the Irish people.
The snake is another symbol of Saint Patrick’s Day. Just like the Declaration said about the snakes, it was a symbol for the druids of Ireland. This symbolized driving paganism out of Ireland and the triumph of Christianity instead. About 200 years after Saint Patrick arrived, Ireland was completely Christian.
The most well known symbol of Saint Patrick’s Day is the leprechaun. Unlike the other symbols that had historical significance, the leprechaun comes from the Celtic belief of fairies. The fairies were tiny men and women who had magical powers to serve both good and evil. The leprechauns were cranky and were responsible for fixing the shoes of fairies. They became known for their tricks to protect the fabled treasure many people search for.
There aren’t many set traditions of Saint Patrick’s Day since many countries celebrate the holiday differently. Most places though do wear the color green on Saint Patrick’s Day.
Green had not been associated with Ireland until the 1640’s. It wasn’t until the 1790’s that green became a symbol and traditional color all over Ireland when the United Irishmen used green to display their Irish nationalism. Through the 19th and 20th centuries Saint Patrick’s Day adopted green to become a tradition of the holiday.
Other traditions of Saint Patrick’s Day can be found in the foods that many people make and eat during the holiday. The most traditional meal for Saint Patrick’s Day is the corned beef and cabbage. It was originally a traditional meal for Irish immigrants who came to America. Since money was hard to come by many used corned beef as a substitute to the traditional Irish bacon to save money. It wasn’t until the 21st century that corned beef became a staple food of Saint Patrick’s Day.
Everyone has their own Saint Patrick’s Day meal, but some popular Saint Patrick’s Day’s meals and foods are listed below.
Irish Stew: Filled with lamb, carrots, and potatoes and served with some herb butter.
Colcannon: An Irish side dish made with cabbage and mashed potatoes.
Irish Soda Bread: It has the subtle taste of orange and currants.
Chocolate Stout Cupcakes: A nice, even mix of the tastes of Guinness and chocolate.
Black and Tan Pork with Spicy Ale Slaw: Made with one part ale and another part dark beer it makes the black and tan.
Guinness Float: Just like a root beer float, but rather than root beer a pint of Guinness and some ice cream.
Beef Pot Pies with Cheddar Stout Crust:
Irish Potato Cakes: Made with leftover mashed potatoes for breakfast the next morning.
Beer Battered Broccoli: A fitting side dish for Saint Patrick’s Day for the festive green color.
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. Though there may be some disconnect to why Saint Patrick’s Day originally began and now has become a drinking and partying holiday some countries still celebrate the holiday how it was meant to be spent.
Saint Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland since the ninth and tenth centuries. It wasn’t until 1903 that the holiday became an official public holiday in Ireland. During that same year the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade was held in Waterford, Ireland. Decades later the first festival for Saint Patrick’s Day happened on March 17, 1996. As time went on many cities in Ireland started to have their own parades and festivals in places like Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Killkenny, Limerick, and Waterford.
Currently the largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade held in Great Britain is in Birmingham and it goes through the city center. The parade measures about 3 km in length. London also holds a parade through Trafalgar Square. Unlike the other cities, Manchester holds a two week long festival that includes an Irish market, a parade, and many events to learn the Irish culture.
In Liverpool, many of the residents have some Irish descent in them. This makes Liverpool an English city with the highest number of residents with descent and there is a large celebration with music, events, and a parade. Glasgow also has a large population with Irish descent. Many of the pubs found in the city are Irish themed. Many Irish interest groups will hold celebrations every year in Glasgow for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Though Saint Patrick’s Day may not be seen as an actual holiday in the U.S., it is still recognized and celebrated due to the Irish and Irish-American culture. Since the late 18th century the U.S. has been celebrating the Irish and Irish-American culture. Many people celebrate by wearing the color green and displaying green in stores, restaurants, and homes. Though, most of the time in America, people celebrate by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol during the holiday.
Montreal hosts one of the longest running and largest Saint Patrick’s Day parades in North America. The parade began in 1824 and has been going since. Though it wasn’t until 1929 that the event was formally organized by the Irish Societies of Montreal. Manitoba has three day long festival full of music and culture that is organized by the Irish Association of Manitoba.
Montserrat is small island that was founded bu Irish refugees from Saint Kitts and Nevis. The island has been nicknamed “Emerald Island of the Caribbean.” Rather than celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day like most countries, Montserrat has Saint Patrick’s Day be a day of remembrance for the failed slave uprising that happened on 17 March 1768. Even on the small island it is recognized as a public holiday just like how it is recognized in the Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador.