Today I am thankful for roots and culture! They are the foundation of family and community. And of course, I am thankful for my Irish Heritage and for wonderful holidays like St. Patrick’s Day which I get to share with my family!! In the spirit of the day…I’d like to share a little bit about St. Patrick’s Day.
A little History:
St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s given name was Maewyn Succat and he was born in Britain around 385 AD. He was born into a pagan Roman family and didn’t set foot on Ireland until he was 16. His journey to Ireland wasn’t a willing one as he was taken there as a captive. It was his six years of captivity that steered his beliefs from pagan to Christian. He later returned to Ireland to convert pagans to Christians. He spent his adult life founding churches and converting the Irish people. He was later made a bishop although in his letters he confesses his discomfort with his grasp of Latin, due to his interrupted education when he was kidnapped. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in America was held in Boston on March 17, 1737 and the practice began in New York on March 17, 1762. Chicago followed suit later and has a tradition – since 1962 – of dyeing the Chicago river green with vegetable dyes. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over now and is the longest running civilian parade in the world – a secular celebration in which ‘all the world becomes Irish’.
St. Patrick’s Day was not an official holiday in Ireland until, in 1903, a member of the Irish parliament, James O’Mara introduced a new bill that called to recognize St. Patrick’s Day as a religious observation in Ireland. However, because this was made a law, this meant that all of the local pubs had to close; therefore, no beer was readily available. So for 67 years, the Irish suffered through a total shut down of all pubs until 1970 when the law was overturned and the holiday was no longer a religious observance, but a national holiday.
St. Patrick’s favorite color was blue, not green, and the people of Ireland weren’t exactly fond of green – according to them it was the color of the Fairies and Leprechauns and, unless you wanted to forcibly join the ranks of these Wee Folks, you would refrain from sporting that color too often. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that Green became the official color of Ireland.
The shamrock, which was also called the “seamroy” by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. According to legend, St. Patrick used a three-leafed specimen to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – to the pagan King Laoghaire of Tara. The shamrock was also used as a symbol of Irish independence and dates back to the time when England began encroaching on Irish land. These English-speaking Anglicans began to outlaw the use of both Ireland’s language and her religion so the shamrock became a silent symbol of rebellion.
Walt Disney is responsible for linking this Irish folk figure to St. Patrick’s Day. His 1959 film Darby O’Gill & the Little People created a new version of the mythical figure, turning him from grumpy to cheerful. In Celtic mythology, leprechauns are a relatively minor figure whose main purpose was to be grumpy and fix the shoes of other fairies. Thanks to Walt Disney, leprechauns are now forever linked with St. Patrick’s Day.
It is often said that St. Patrick is credited with having driven the snakes off of the island of Ireland. This is a myth, as there have never been any snakes on the island. The snakes more likely represent the pagan and earth based religions that were dominant in Ireland at the time and St. Patrick’s efforts to convert the peoples to Christianity.
In Massachusetts, the state with the largest amount Irish population (about one-fourth), St. Patrick’s Day (coincidentally ;p ) coincides with another holiday: Evacuation Day. While Boston is already well known for its celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, Evacuation Day is important as well. On March 17, 1776, the British forces left Boston after troops headed by Henry Knox and George Washington placed heavy artillery around the city. To celebrate this significant event, several counties in Massachusetts made the day a holiday in 1901 and worker are paid for a day off.
- Shamrocks are the national flower of Ireland and are picked on St. Patrick’s Day and worn on the shoulder.
- The ancient Irish used to wear green to show their love for the harvest gods.
- 34.5 million U.S residents claim Irish ancestry, that is 9 times the current population of Ireland.
- Over 41.5 billion pounds of beef are produced each year for St. Patrick’s Day, with the majority of it coming from Texas and over 2.5 billion pounds of cabbage are produced with the majority grown in California.
- Over 8 million St. Patrick’s Day cards are exchanged in America making today the ninth-largest card selling occasion in the US.
- Over 94 million people plan to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.
- The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease.
- The Oscar was handcrafted by an Irishman, Cedric Gibbons, who was born in Dublin in 1823.
- Bailey’s Irish Cream which was launched in Ireland in the early seventies, is now the most popular liqueur in the world.
- Nine of the people who signed our Declaration Of Independence were of Irish origin, and nineteen Presidents of the United States proudly claim Irish heritage — including our first President, George Washington.
An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
I’m definitely wearing green today…and wishing that I still worked in a city where the day was a holiday and I could be at home celebrating. And I will be having a family dinner on Saturday featuring Corned Beef, Cabbage, Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips, and Irish Soda Bread.
So do you celebrate St. Patricks Day? And if so how??