Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated every year on March 17, honoring the Irish patron saint, St. Patrick. People all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially places with large Irish-American communities. Today celebrations are largely Irish cultured themed and common traditions include parades, drinking, dying water or beer green, food, green decorations and religious services. Some cities hold large parades with floats and decorations all in green. Sometimes even the parade routes are painted green. People are supposed to wear green or risk being pinched. Catholics who are fasting from drinking during Lent may be allowed to break fast and drink on St. Patrick’s Day. Many bars and restaurants serve green-dyed beer. The White House fountain is also dyed green. Feasts on St. Patrick’s Day features Irish food including corned beef, corned cabbage, coffee, potatoes and shepherd’s pie. Some celebrations include an Irish breakfast of sausage, black and white pudding, eggs and fried tomatoes.
While not much is known about St. Patrick’s early life, letters from St. Patrick revealed that he was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century and he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped and returned to his family in Britain but returned to Ireland around 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. By his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches and schools. Many legends were told about him. One legend is that he was attacked by snakes while feasting and drove them all into the ocean and out of Ireland. Another one is that he stuck a walking stick into the ground which turned into a tree. The symbol of the shamrock used for St. Patrick’s Day comes from the story of St. Patrick using the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity.
St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in America in 1737, organized by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, including a feast and religious service. This first celebration of the holiday in the colonies was largely to honor and celebrate the Irish culture that so many colonists had been separated from. St. Patrick’s Day parades originated in New York in 1762 by a group of Irish soldiers in the British military who marched down broadway. Parades now often feature marching mility units. The holiday eventually evolved from the modest religious dinner into the largely secular holiday of revelry and celebrations we see today.
I did always wear green to school and later to work on St. Patrick’s Day. However, I have never eaten a traditional Irish feast or drank green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Whether or not you participated in celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day, I hope it was a great day for everyone!