St Patrick’s Day: Facts, History & Traditions in 10 minutes

St. Patrick’s Day – A festival where people all over the world from the Emerald Isle itself to places as seemingly unlikely as Russia and Japan, come together to celebrate, wearing green plastic hats and green clothing. But who is the man behind this holiday? How is it even celebrated?

Get to know all about St. Patrick’s day in this article in just 10 minutes.

1. What is St. Patrick’s Day?

Celebrated on March 17th every year, St. Patrick’s Day was officially made a feast day in the early 17th century. It’s both a commemoration of Christianity’s arrival in Ireland and the celebration of Irish culture all over the world. Ireland’s patron Saint Patrick is the man behind this holiday.

2. Where is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated? 

Though it is celebrated all over the world nowadays, St. Patrick’s Day is a declared a national holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Caribbean Islands of Montserrat.

All of these places other than Ireland itself have a large Irish population. Other than these, St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated all over the United States and is a public holiday.

3. Some weird facts about St. Patrick’s Day

3.1. Technically you shouldn’t drink beer on St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day revolves around food and beer. But did you know? It’s not traditional to drink beer?

Today beer is probably the second most synonymous thing with Saint Patrick’s Day behind Ireland itself. On average, between 11 and 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed worldwide on March 17th. A 2012 study found the day to be worth over 245 million dollars to the International brewing industry.

But no matter how many stouts we drink nowadays, getting drunk is not a St. Patrick’s Day tradition! Pubs weren’t even allowed to be opened in Ireland on that day until 1970 when st. Patrick’s Day was converted from a religious holiday to a national holiday.

The date has always been a feast day, however, with significance because st. Patrick’s falls during Lent (a day of merriment during a staunch period of fasting).

It’s the first glimpse of gluttony on the Christian calendar since Shrove Tuesday ( Pancake Day).

3.2. There’s a high chance that today St. Patrick’s Day might be more American than Irish.

Thirty-four million Americans claim Irish heritage, which is about five times the population of Ireland itself!

First observed in Boston in 1737, St. Patrick’s Day had become a regular affair by the 19th century.

New York City is famous for its quarter-million energetic marching parade, which has been held since 1762.

All of you know about the green color of the Chicago River or the fountain of the White House, but there’s another particularly peculiar presidential tradition as well. Every year since 1952, the Irish leader presents the U.S. Commander with a crystal bowl of shamrocks, and the pair then poses for photos.

Although the president can keep the crystal, the shamrocks themselves are promptly destroyed as per security procedures.

3.3. We should be wearing blue 

If you’ve been reading this article with your mind’s eye firmly tinted to green, then you’ve been reading it all wrong. Historically speaking, St. Patrick’s Day was a very blue day.

Named after the saint who is used on Ireland’s presidential standard and as part of the Irish Guards uniform, the association of St. Patrick’s Day with green only began in the late 1700s and the Irish rebellion.

St. Patrick’s Day is probably the best time to bust out your best Green accessories and get over to the neighborhood pub.

Did you know blue used to be Ireland’s symbolic color? So why do we even wear green? Before the 1600s, Ireland was under British rule. Henry the eighth was King, and his flag was blue. The great Irish rebellion happened in 1641, allowing Ireland to secede from the British Empire. Owen O’Neill helped lead the resistance and used green and a harp on his flag.

Later on, in the 18th century, many more poems and songs were written about the importance of wearing the color green, making the color even more popular.

Jumping forward to the 19th century, we see people from Ireland immigrating to the United States for better job opportunities. Irish immigrants would flaunt the color green as a representation of pride in their home country.

At that time, the clover became a nationalist symbol, and the color green emerged as the patriotic color of choice. Today a well-read rebel might tip their hat to tradition and wear blue, but the vast majority of us go all-out emerald.

Besides, there is only one thing weirder than green beer, and I think that’s blue beer!

4. The history behind St. Patrick’s Day

It might be surprising, but St. Patrick was not an Irish by birth! Yes, he was a British, born in Britain around 386 A.D. During that time, the Roman Empire occupied Britain. He came from a Christian family of priests, and his birth name wasn’t Patrick, either. His father, Calpurnias, was a deacon while his grandfather Potitus was a priest.

There is a bit of confusion regarding the exact dates. But based on Patrick’s writings of quotation of the Vulgate or Latin Bible version of the Apostles Creed and the fact that he describes France still being pagan suggests that he was writing no earlier than the beginning of the fifth century.

When he was a lad of 16 years, Patrick was kidnapped by some pirates from Ireland who took him back to Ireland as a slave, where he spent the next six years living in captivity. He was forced to tend sheep. He found that there were no Christians in his new home, as the people of Ireland practiced a different religion.

Being lonely, Patrick spent a lot of time praying. He used to pasture the flock and pray many times a day. This increased the love and faith for God in him.

When he was about 20, he heard a voice in his dream who told him how to escape. He believed this dream came from God. Following the details of his vision, he escaped from his captors and made it to the sea, where he found a ship captain who agreed to take him back to Britain.

When he arrived back in Britain, he was reunited with his family. But all those years in captivity had changed something inside him. He decided that he wanted to be a priest, so he began to study.

Eventually, he became a priest and was then made a bishop. One day, after many years of coming back from Ireland, he believed he had a vision that urged him to go back to Ireland. He decided to go back to help people there and show them his beliefs.

At first, the locals weren’t exactly welcoming, and so Patrick had to seek a safe landing place further north amongst some islands. The one on which he landed later came to be known as the island of Saint Patrick. After resting for several days, Patrick moved into the mainland, where he said about dedicating his life to the Irish.

According to his confession, Patrick claims to have converted many thousands. He ordained priests to run the new Christian communities. He turned the sons of chieftains and sometimes made nuns of wealthy women even against the wishes of their families. At one point, he also found himself standing trial facing accusations from fellow Christians.

Patrick worked in Ireland for 40 years, telling people about God. Some say that he converted all of Ireland to Christianity. There is also a saying that by converting the Irish to Christianity, he drove all the snakes out of the island.

One of the essential symbols of St. Patrick’s Day is the Shamrock or three-leaf clover, which was used by Patrick to help people understand God.

Patrick died on March 17th, 461 A.D., At the age of 120. After spending many years helping people and sharing his beliefs all over Ireland, he died in the same place he had built his first church. Today st. Patrick’s Day is as much a celebration of Irish culture as a celebration of St. Patrick himself.

5. Traditions Of St. Patrick’s Day

5.1. Food

People all over the world wear green clothes, green hats and drink green beer ( Weird? I know!)  to show their respect for this specific Irish culture. Many people also eat dishes that have corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and soda bread in them, whereas the Irish just have a traditional meal of these. In Ireland, most people go to church in the morning.

5.2. Green Obsession!

In the United States, there are many people with Irish heritage whose ancestors moved to the U.S. during the Irish potato famine, so there are many special celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day. In the United States each year during St. Patrick’s Day, there is an annual event where the city of Chicago even dyes the Chicago River green. The fountain on the lawn of the White House also gets dyed green.

The green waters look fantastic, though!

5.3. Parades

There are many special events and public events every year on St. Patrick’s Day.

Many cities in the United States also have parades.

Did you know in 1762, New York City was the first city where the first St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred? It is now a well known annual parade in the world. There are many other symbols of Irish culture that have also become associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

5.4. Getting pinched 

Everyone remembers getting pinched on St. Patrick’s Day.

But why was that ever a tradition to begin? Wearing green isn’t just a point of pride, but it was also intended to ward off any unwanted pinchers. Irish people take their heritage seriously, and that plays a significant role in the reason why people get pinched not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day.

It is considered disrespectful. Therefore, a pinch is an inappropriate punishment. It’s meant to remind those not wearing the color to be more bold and prideful of their Irishness.

In addition to this, the color green is also meant to protect against leprechauns and fairies. In the early 1700s, people in Ireland believed these mystical creatures would pinch you if you didn’t wear the country’s favorite color.

Wearing green was said to make you invisible to these mischievous creatures.

It is said that if you can catch a leprechaun (A leprechaun is a mythical creature from Irish folklore), he has to give you his pot of gold.

6. Myths around St. Patrick’s Day

What’s most memorable about St. Patrick’s Day are the colorful legends behind it.

6.1. One of the most famous stories tells of how Patrick used the Shamrock with its three leaves to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish.

The story in written form seems to date back to the 18th century but may have existed previously in oral tradition. The fact that the pre-Christian Irish were already familiar with the concept of Tri deities and that they already viewed the number three having mystical significance, may have made them more receptive to the doctrine of the Trinity.

One example of an Irish triple deity is Morgan, The Phantom Queen, or a great war goddess who often took the form of a crow but who is also sometimes embodied as three separate female divinities. Perhaps it is no mere coincidence that Patrick, along with Brigid and Columba, is one of three patron saints of Ireland.

6.2. One of the most favorite myths is that st. Patrick drove all of the snakes out of Ireland. However, scholars now believe there may be more to this legend than we initially thought. The first thing you have to know about Ireland is that there are no snakes! NONE! And to begin with, there never were.

While there are three species of snakes commonly found in Britain. There’s zero evidence that any of them ever found their way to Ireland. The country’s natural landing was made inaccessible by melting glaciers, and unfortunately, that means our little serpentine friends never made it across.

But where does the legend come from if St. Patrick had no actual snakes to manage?

Now while there may not have been snakes in Ireland, there were a lot of druids and pagans. The natives of this land practiced an ancient religion with their own sets of beliefs and traditions. However, these practices weren’t seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Christian Church, and St. Patrick was sent to convert as many Irish folks as possible.

There are several myths, accounts, and legends that detail the conflicts between Saint Patrick and druid priests. Critics of St. Patrick and the Catholic Church believe that he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of pagans.

Click here to know about more myths!

So this St. Patrick’s Day, don’t forget to put on a green hat and grab a tall glass of beer! Do you know any other St, Patrick’s Day traditions or myths? Let us know!

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