When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, you might think of green beer, shot glass necklaces that say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” and everyone suddenly talking about how Irish they are. That’s all well and good, but you might not know much about the holiday’s origins or the saint it celebrates.
These days, Patricius is known to most as Saint Patrick. Though he’s not technically a canonized saint by the Catholic Church, he’s well-regarded throughout the Christian world. But why the holiday? Why always March 17? What’s with the green? And why do we think of a non-Irish, non-snake charmer as a symbol of Ireland?
St. Paddy’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This “Feast Day” always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD. In the early 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the tradition over to the American colonies, and it was there that Saint Patrick started to become the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As more Irish came across the Atlantic, the Feast Day celebration slowly grew in popularity. So much so, in fact, the first-ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737.
Over the years Saint Patrick’s Day became very popular in the US. Places where there were large numbers of Irish immigrants, like Chicago and Boston, organized huge celebrations and elaborate parades. Green is the dominant color of Saint Patrick’s Day and people wear green clothes, decorate their houses in green and even prepare food with green leafy vegetables like cabbage. Traditionally people pin clover-shaped leaves and violet flowers of the Irish shamrock plant on the lapel.
Traditional Saint Patrick’s Day feasts include meat and cabbage dishes and beer. People prepare the classic Irish Stew, soda bread and apple pie. Here’s wishing all a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!