St Patrick’s Day Shenanigans
March 17th every year, millions of people wear the green, hold big parades and drink bucket loads of beer, all in the name of an old Irish saint. But why? What is the history of this much loved holiday, and why do we celebrate it in all corners of the world with shamrocks and alcohol?
While many people mainly use the day as a justification to drink a countless quantity of booze, it is still—first and foremost—a day to celebrate Irish heritage and culture.
Let’s go over some of the reason why we celebrate paddies day and look a little closer into the myth and realities of St. Patrick.
Who was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick is well known for being the patron saint of Ireland and having a day named for him that most of the world uses as an excuse to get incredibly drunk. However, contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick was not actually Irish! St. Patrick was the son of Romans who were living in Britain, around 385AD. As a boy of 14 he was kidnapped and taken as a slave to Ireland where he spent six years herding sheep. He returned to Ireland in his 30s as a missionary among the Celtic pagans. Rather than replacing pagan Irish rituals, he incorporated them into his teachings, hence the shamrock. (Halloween is another Irish festival that we all know and love so well)
The shamrock is the traditional symbol because St. Patrick used it to explain the connection between the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit (the Trinity) in the Christian religion. It is the symbol of Ireland, and wearing and displaying shamrocks has become a widespread practice on St. Patrick’s Day.
Wearing green is said to commemorate St Patrick’s use of the shamrock – although blue was the original colour of his vestments. But green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day because it is the colour of spring. And the ancient Irish used to wear green to show their love for the harvest gods and the advent of spring. That and the fact Ireland is a very green country and shamrocks are green! Also the wearing of the green differentiated the Irish from the British.
You don’t have to wear green clothes on St. Patrick’s Day, a sprig of shamrock on your clothing can do.
Parades and celebration?
Well you might not have noticed but there are a lot of Irish everywhere, that and all the Irish bars all over the place. The Irish are a sentimental bunch and when abroad they do tend to miss the old country. There are currently more Irish living outside of the island than on it – a lot more. There are an estimated 100 million people of Irish descent living in places as diverse as the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. More than 36 million Americans claim Irish ancestry. So celebrating St. Paddy’s day is a way to celebrate Ireland. Many cities around the world hold parades in honour of the holiday. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in America in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest parade in the world. The world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade is held in the Irish village of Dripsey. It lasts only 100 yards, covering the distance between the village’s two pubs.
And the 17th of March is when St Patrick died, supposedly!
One of his most famous miracles attributed to St. P was the driving of serpents out of Ireland. However, evidence suggests post-glacial Ireland never had any snakes in the first place. That’s a pity!