March is a great time of the year. The month of March is when the spring season begins. We also set our clocks to daylight savings time this month. March is also known for one day that is filled with festive fun the Irish way. If you’re not wearing green, you may be subject to a pinch or two. On March 17th, we recognize St. Patrick’s Day. In this Bald, Bearded, & Blessed blog, we will take a deeper dive into Saint Patrick’s Day.
The Origin of Saint Patrick’s Day
When we think about Saint Patrick’s Day, some of the things that come to mind are shamrocks and the color green. However, do we really know how St. Patrick’s Day originated and the significance of some of the symbols associated with the day?
Held on the 17th of March, Saint Patrick’s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a day that commemorates the traditional death date of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Saint Patrick is recognized as the notable patron saint of Ireland for his contribution of spreading Christianity. He was a 5th century Romano-British Christian missionary and Bishop of Ireland.
Saint Patrick depicted in a stained glass window at Saint Benin’s Church, Ireland¹
In the early 17th century, Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day. This day is a celebration of the Irish culture and heritage and is observed by the Catholic Church. Saint Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora world-wide and is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival.
The Color and Symbols of Saint Patrick’s Day
When it comes to Saint Patrick’s Day, the color green is the color associated with this day. It is customary to wear green shamrocks, green clothes, and/or green accessories. History records that Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagan Irish, the shamrock is a three leaved plant.
In regards to the color green, there are several stories that are embedded in Irish Mythology. The first association of the color green with Saint Patrick’s Day dates back as early as the 11th century. In the 1640’s, the Irish Catholic Confederation used a green harp flag that associated the color green with Irish. Due to its use by the United Irishmen is the 1790’s, green was associated with Irish nationalism. It wasn’t until the flags of the 1916 Easter Rising the color green had its most influential observation in Saint Patrick’s Day.
Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations
When it comes to celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, there are numerous ways to celebrate. Here are some of the ways Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated:
- Public parades and festivals
- Cèilidh – a traditional Scottish or Irish gathering with music
- banquets and dances
- church services
Drinking Irish whiskey, beer, or cider is customary as well. There is one historically well known custom called “downing the shamrock” or “drowning the shamrock”. This custom entails putting a shamrock at the bottom of a cup and filling it with whiskey, beer, or cider. A toast is made to Saint Patrick, Ireland, and those in attendance. The shamrock is swallowed along with the drink or tossed over the shoulder for good luck.
The next time you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day remember the all this associated with the day has significance to those how are of the Irish diaspora. From the color green, shamrock, to the forms of celebration, it is a great day to be Irish and for those who choose to observe it.
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¹By Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14609082