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Few holidays have transformed quite like St. Patrick’s Day. It began in Ireland as a way to honor the country’s patron saint, but through both immigration and secularization it has now become a worldwide day to pay tribute to all things Irish. The date, March 17, is one of the few constants over the years.
According to History.com, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland for more than a millennium. It was a time to cut loose during the Catholic Lent season, and as such it quickly became synonymous with Irish food and drink. When immigrants from Ireland moved to the U.S. (and other places), they brought the tradition of St. Patrick’s Day with them, and it morphed and modernized into what it’s become now.
Today, the holiday is honored in myriad ways around the world, ranging from the preparation of classic Irish food like colcannon, and dexter beef, to adorning homes with clever green-and-gold decorations, and even making leprechaun traps. Though the festivities have changed over the centuries, St. Patrick’s Day’s traditions still showcase much of what makes Irish culture so unique.
Who was Saint Patrick?
Saint Patrick was a Romano-British Christian missionary who was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century. He was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16 but later escaped. He returned to Ireland and was later credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people.
He went on to become the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle.
The mythology surrounding his life became more ingrained in Irish culture in the centuries following his death.
Many legends about Saint Patrick grew in the years following his death. His followers believed he drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock, a trifoliate plant used as a symbol in Ireland, to explain the Trinity.
Celebration and Traditions
Celebrations of the day are generally themed around Irish culture and things that are popular in Ireland. It is a day that is observed by both Christians and non-Christians in Ireland by wearing green, eating Irish food, and attending parades.
In today’s times, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have spread across the world and are greatly influenced by those among the Irish diaspora, especially in North America.
But the main festivities still involve public parades, traditional music sessions and the wearing of green dresses or shamrocks.
In many parts of the world, March 17 is marked with formal gatherings, banquets, and dances.
The celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day began in North America in the 18th century but didn’t spread to Ireland until the 20th century.
In the past few years, the day is marked with famous landmarks being lit up in green as part of Ireland’s ‘Global Greening Initiative’.
- The colour of St. Patrick’s Day was originally blue
- On the day, beer is one of the most consumed beverages
- The world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade is held in an Irish village, covering just 100 yards between two pubs
- Chicago dyes the river green for a few hours to celebrate the day
- The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the United States was held in Boston (1737). Source 1, Source 2, Source 3.
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Categories: Ethnic traditions