Saint Patrick's Day Traditions & Irish Facts Explained


traditions and history of st. patty's day

As St . Patrick's Day draws closer, it fills the atmosphere with enthusiasm and joy. The celebration marks the day with wearing the wearing the Saint Patrick's Day color green, pots of gold, shamrock, and leprechaun. 

Well, what’s the history behind this holy feast day? Also, how did it evolve into a grand celebration to mark the Irish culture? Let’s get deep into this part of Irish culture.

Who Was Saint Patrick?

Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop based in Ireland. Saint Patrick had written a Declaration, which gave much insight into his life. It is believed that he was born to a wealthy British family in Roman Britain in the 4th century. His father was a deacon (an ordained minister below the priest), and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. 

According to the Declaration, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland when he was just 16 years old. There he worked as a shepherd for six years, and that’s when he found the almighty God. As per the Declaration, God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. On his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.

According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent years converting people to Christianity in the northern half of Ireland. Patrick's efforts against the druids were eventually turned into a traditional tale that claimed that he drove "snakes" out of Ireland. However, people say that the snakes were not known to inhabit the region.

As per the religious traditions, he died on March 17th (the official holiday) and was buried at Downpatrick. 

What is Saint Patrick’s Day?

Saint Patrick's Day, also known as Feast of Saint Patrick or St. Patty's Day, is a cultural celebration that takes place on March 17th every year.  It is observed as the death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), who was the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Also, Patty's day is a national holiday in Ireland (Republic of Ireland) and is one of the bank holidays in Northern Ireland.

The early 17th century marked Saint Patrick’s Day and as an official feast day observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. 

The day marks the arrival of Christianity in Ireland with Saint Patrick. It is symbolic of the heritage and culture of the Irish people.  The St. Patrick's day celebrations generally involve the following:

  • Public parades and festivals, 
  • Events that include Irish music, singing, dancing, and storytelling
  • Wearing green attires or shamrocks. 

Moreover, Christians who belong to liturgical denominations attend church services. Also, the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which encourages people to involve in the holiday's tradition of consuming alcohol ultimately.

Celebrations, History and Traditions

what to wear to a St. Patrick's Day Party

When it comes to celebrating the holy feast day, it is accompanied by various festivities and merrymaking. Celebrations generally include public parades and festivals, céilithe, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.  

There are also formal gatherings such as banquets and dances. The participants that take part in a St. Patrick's day parade and other official events include marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organizations, charitable organizations, voluntary associations, youth groups, fraternities, and so on. However, many of the parades evolved into great grand carnivals with time.

Why Do People Wear Green?

Green is synonymous with St. Patrick's festival, as people of Irish descent wear color green on March 17. But, wearing green clothing only became a tradition in the 19th century. Before this, the most common color associated with St. Patrick was blue. Nowadays, it’s all about jade and emerald, moss, and olive, which are varied classification of the same green color.

I am pinching Those Who Don’t Wear Green!

As per Irish mythology, Leprechauns (a small mischievous sprite) can’t see you if you’re wearing the green color. They will pinch you as soon as they see you! Likewise, in Irish tradition, you can pinch someone on St. Patrick’s Day who isn’t wearing green. However, leprechauns originally wore red in Irish folklore. So, this is something that came from America, which indicates the Americanization of the Irish custom. 

But, Stay Away from the Food that’s Dyed Green!

Dying food (or rivers, or beer, or anything else) green is not a part of Irish culture, and it is associated with something that could be unlucky. 

According to British historian Christian Kinealy, “Green food is not an Irish tradition, possibly due to the historical trauma of the Great Famine, when Irish folk had no choice but to eat grass in an attempt to survive, then they would often die of starvation with green-colored moths from eating grass,” 

“American celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day likely uses green food and drink to celebrate the ‘greenness’ of Ireland, i.e., the Emerald Isle.” 

Forget about green-dyed food and bears instead try some thick Irish stout “a million pints of Guinness.”

Why is Shamrock Associated with the Day?

Celts called The shamrock the “seamroy.” It was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland that symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the 17th century, the shamrock became a symbol of emerging nationalism in Irish culture. 

English seized Irish land and prevented people from using the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism. To protest against this, the Irish began to wear the shamrock to express their love for their heritage. They showed their displeasure with English rule. They took Shamrock as a symbol of their pride and their faith in their culture.

The Leprechaun

The original Irish name for these small figures in Irish culture was “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow.” The folklore stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men, and women with magical powers to serve good or evil. 

If you are to believe the Celtic folktales, then leprechauns were bizarre souls who used to mend the shoes of the other fairies. Irrespective of their size, goblins were very cunning and were known for their trickery, which they often used against others to protect their renowned treasure.

Interesting Facts Associated with St. Patrick's Day

  • Though Saint Patrick’s death day is celebrated as per the Irish customs, he was a British. 
  • The Shamrock was a figurative expression of the Holy Trinity for Saint Patrick. He continued the same custom when he was first introducing Christianity to Ireland.
  • As per the Irish legends, Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. However, Ireland has never been home to snakes, according to the fossil record. The place was cold, and it is impossible to host reptiles during the Ice Age.
  • Corned beef is a self-curated brisket of beef at St. Patrick’s Day meal of meat and cabbage. The name corn is taken from the large grains of salt historically that were used to treat meat.
  • “Maewyn Succat” was the original name of Saint Patrick, which he changed to “Patricius” when he became a priest.
  • Irish immigrants observed St. Patrick’s Day in 1737 in Boston. Also, 1766 marked the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in America, which was held in New York City.
  • In Chicago, the union of Plumbers Local 110 dyes the river Kelly green in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, which lasts for 5 hours. 
  • In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the prime minister presents the U.S. president with a crystal bowl of live shamrocks. The warm gesture symbolizes the close ties between the two countries.

These were the tidbits of St. Patty's Day and its long history and tradition. I hope you enjoyed reading the blog about St. Patrick's festival and everything else about the history of St. Patrick's, importance of this religious festival, how the day is celebrated, day parades, wearing of the green importance, 

Thanks for visiting, and Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

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