What Is Saint Patrick’s Day?
Saint Patrick’s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on 17 March. It is named after Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. Saint Patrick was a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. The patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures. However, for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many exaggerated stories of St. Patrick are traditionally told, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland. The stories, although false, are the products of hundreds of years of embellished lore.
Some of What is Known About St. Patrick
Saint Patrick was born to wealthy parents in Britain near the end of the 4th century. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and transported to Ireland where he was held captive for six years. There is dispute over as to where in Ireland this captivity took place. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. After a voice from God compelled him to escape, he traveled hundreds of miles on foot, back in Britain. In a second revelation, an angel told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. He began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.
Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations
Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Lutheran Church. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as Irish heritage and culture in general.
St. Patrick’s Day Green
Saint Patrick’s Day involves public parades and festivals, and wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day. Originally, the color associated with Saint Patrick was blue. Over the years, the color green replaced blue in Saint Patrick’s Day observances. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick’s Day as early as the 17th century. Saint Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to the pagan Irish, hence the wearing of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs has become a popular tradition of the day. The phrase, “the wearing of the green,” is derived from wearing a shamrock on one’s clothing. In the 1798 rebellion, to draw attention and make a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on 17 March.
St. Patrick’s Day in the United States
St. Patrick’s Day, although not a legal holiday in the United States, is widely recognized throughout the country. It is primarily observed as a celebration of Irish and Irish American culture with celebrations including prominent displays of the color green, feasting, religious observances, and numerous parades. Many celebrants also engage in the copious consumption of alcohol, including drinking “green beer” (beer that has been tinted green). The traditions have been carried-on in North America since the late eighteenth century. Some of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades are held in the cities of Boston and New York, and in Chicago, where the Chicago River is died green each year in recognition of the holiday.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Montreal Canada
One of the longest-running Saint Patrick’s Day parades in North America occurs each year in Montreal, whose city flag includes a shamrock in its lower-right quadrant. The parades have been held there continually since 1824.
London, England Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day
London has held an annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade since 2002. It takes place on weekends around the 17th, usually in Trafalgar Square. In 2008, the water in the Trafalgar Square fountains was dyed green. Some excellent information sources about St. Patrick’s Day include Wikipedia and History.com.
Copyright Robert George Reoch