Prepare to wear your best green frock and raise your pints of ale, it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day!
St. Patrick’s Day is a worldwide celebration that traces its roots to Ireland, one that is steeped in religion, history, and culture. Beginning in the Middle Ages it became customary for the Irish Catholics to close shop and hear mass on the day that marks their nation’s patron St. Patrick’s death, and celebrate a “one-day reprieve” before Lent with drinking and merriment.
However, the tradition of holding parades didn’t start in the Emerald Isle itself but on the other side of the pond. Millions of Irishmen were driven out of their homeland due to the Great Potato Famine in the 1840s, and apart from Australia and Canada, many fled to the USA. Inevitably, the Irish immigrants brought with them some of their customs. According to records, the very first parade was held in Boston in 1737. New York followed in 1762 and today it remains the largest, most famous St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
The practice of wearing green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day goes back to 18th century Ireland, where Irish Catholics first wore shamrocks on their lapels. The shamrock, a green-colored three-leaf plant that may actually be the wood sorrel and white and yellow clover, has long been associated with St. Patrick who, according to a myth, used it to explain the Holy Trinity. Green-colored garments replaced shamrocks supposedly following the United Irish Uprising of 1798, when the people involved applied this tradition to politics and started wearing green uniforms. However, did you know that it was the color blue that was first associated with St. Patrick? In fact, there actually exists a shade of this color called St. Patrick’s Blue!
Anyway, as for these symbols’ connections with luck, it’s interesting to find out that this notion apparently was only an early 20th century invention by greeting card companies!
St. Patrick was born Maewyn Succat during the 5th century in Britain, which was then part of the Roman Empire. His connections with Ireland began when, at 16 years old, he was captured by Irish marauders. After spending six years in captivity, he escaped following a vision he had. But later on, as directed by another vision, he returned to Ireland this time as a Christian missionary and built schools and churches around the island nation.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated not only in Ireland and in the US, but also in countries like Argentina, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Malaysia, Montserrat, Russia, South Korea, and Switzerland! St. Patrick’s Day occurs on March 17 annually, and no matter where you’re from, make sure to mark your calendars and join the festivities!