Wearing shamrocks, drinking green beer, and marching in a parade have become yearly activities associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Although the holiday began in Irish religious tradition, it has taken root globally. Making leprechaun traps are a regular grade school assignment in the US. Every year McDonald’s pumps out its, now infamous, Shamrock Shake and we all believe we are a little Irish on St. Paddy’s Day.
But beyond the festivities and merry making what do we really know about this holiday? Well for starters St. Patrick was a real guy. The day is to honor St. Patrick bringing Christianity to Ireland.
St. Patrick was actually from Britain. At sixteen he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. During his time there he discovered his calling. When he escaped and returned home, he became a priest. After sometime he felt another calling. This was to return to the place he spent 6 years as a slave, and spread his faith. He traveled back to Ireland and set about converting the Irish people to Christianity.
So how did a feast day devoted to a Christian Saint go mainstream?
In the early 1900’s, St. Patrick’s Feast Day became a national Catholic holiday and the Saint’s association with Ireland grew. From there it became a national holiday in Ireland. Parades honoring Irish heritage and culture began to take place in conjunction with the feast day. When the Great Potato Famine occurred many Irish emigrated to America. They brought the St. Patrick’s Day traditions with them to cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Today, although it is not a recognized national holiday in the US, St. Paddy’s Day has become a national way to recognize Irish heritage throughout America. Likewise, it has spread in an international phenomenon and is celebrated worldwide in countries like Russia, Japan and Argentina.
The Shamrock is more then just a green clover. It was the symbol used by St. Patrick to explain the holy trinity. The idea of a four leaf clover being good luck actually pre-dates St. Patrick according to thespruce.com.
“Celtic dominance once extended across Ireland and much of Western Europe. It was the Druids (Celtic priests) who elevated four leaf clovers to the status of good-luck charms, allegedly potent against malevolent spirits. Their status as Celtic charms is the origin of the modern belief in their power to bestow good luck.”
Leprechauns were part of early Irish folklore. They are mischievous fairy like folk tasked with mending the shoes of other magical beings. According to livescience.com, in the leprechaun legend, these little being can use their magic for good or evil purposes. Should you capture a one of these wee 0nes, they will share their pot of gold with you.
“According to Irish legends, people lucky enough to find a leprechaun and capture him (or, in some stories, steal his magical ring, coin or amulet) can barter his freedom for his treasure. Leprechauns are usually said to be able to grant the person three wishes. But dealing with leprechauns can be a tricky proposition.”
And then there was the beer..
Green Beer? This strange beverage is America’s contribution to the St. Patrick’s Day feast. According to thedailymeal.com, green beer was first served in 1914 by a New York coroner during a St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
“A newspaper article from 1914 describes a New York social club serving green beer at a celebratory St. Patrick’s Day dinner. In it, the invention is attributed to one Dr. Curtin, a coroner’s physician who achieved the effect by putting a drop of “wash blue” dye in a certain quantity of beer.”
Apparently, green beer is so remarkable it can not be contained to St. Patrick’s Day alone. It now has it’s very own day called Green Beer Day and even celebrated yearly by Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
If you want to brew up your own green beer, here is a recipe from thespruce.com.
However, you celebrate St. Paddy’s Day remember Be safe, Be merry and wear the green.