St. Patrick’s Day

·3 min read

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here. Celebrated on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day is often a day of revelry with people decked out in all in green, shamrock and leprechaun decorations, and often copious amounts of beer. Sometimes the beer is even dyed green to get into the spirit of the festivities. St. Patrick’s Day parades are held throughout North America. Chicago has been dyeing the Chicago River green for their celebrations just about every year since 1962. And as with many favored celebrations, there are traditional dishes that go with this day as well. While beef and Guinness stew is a popular favorite, Corned beef and cabbage are almost synonymous with St. Patrick’s day in Canada and the United States.

Today St. Patrick’s Day is often a pretty wild party to celebrate all things Irish, but how did this all get started?

Unsurprisingly, St. Patrick’s Day originated in Ireland, where it has been observed as a religious holiday for more than 1,000 years. St. Patrick was a real person, and he is one of the world’s most popular saints, although he was never formally canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. Much of the history of St. Patrick is shrouded in legend, with differing accounts of some of his life’s details. Generally, he is believed to have been born in the late 4th century, in Roman Britain, although some accounts have him living in what is now Scotland. Some sources state that his name at birth was Maewyn Succat and that he took the name Patricius (a Latin name that we translate as Patrick) during his later religious journeys, or possibly at his ordainment as a priest.

Differing accounts generally agree that he was kidnapped by Irish pirates at roughly 16 years old, brought to Ireland, and sold into slavery. Patrick was said to have viewed his enslavement as a test of his faith and became very devout in his Christianity. He was able to escape back to his home after six years of slavery, where he entered the priesthood and was eventually ordained as a bishop. Patrick is said to have had a vision that told him to return to Ireland and spread the message of Christianity, but other accounts have him being instructed by Pope Celestin I to complete this mission.

Patrick returned to Ireland around 432 and began his mission to convert the Irish people to Christianity. This was no easy task, and Patrick faced much hardship. By the time of his death, which is generally believed to have been on March 17th, 461, Patrick had founded monasteries, churches, and schools in Ireland. Many legends about St. Patrick grew over the years. He is said to have driven all of the snakes out of Ireland and to have used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity of the Christian faith.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the emerald isle. People in Ireland have observed the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17thsince around the 9th or 10th century, although it was typically with church services in the morning and the celebrations in the afternoon. Although St. Patrick’s Day occurs within the Christian season of Lent, the religious prohibitions against eating meat during this time were set aside for this celebration.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have changed through the years. For instance, the traditional colour associated with this feast day was actually blue until about the 19th century. The traditional religious observance of a St. Patrick’s feast day grew to become the holiday that we recognize today in America. As Irish immigrants spread to America, they carried the tradition of St. Patrick’s Day with them, but this observance became more of a celebration of Irish identity over time. In fact, the first St. Patrick’s Day parades were held in America.

Have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette