Across the world, March 17th – we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day is not just celebrated by the Irish, but also by the Irish at heart. Why do so many Go Green on St. Patrick’s Day, and why is it now an international festival celebrating the Irish culture?
It all started as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland, known as the “Apostle Of Ireland”. Patrick was born an aristocrat from a religious Christian family. He wasn’t born on the Emerald Isle as many people think. He was sixteen when he was captured in Wales, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he slaved for six years herding sheep, before escaping to return back to his family. He was 22 when he escaped, walking more than 200 miles before eventually taking a boat across the Irish seas to get to England. It was there he spent years getting close to God. Patrick said he had a dream from God, telling him to return to Ireland and convert the Irish to Christianity.
Patrick eventually settled in France and studied in a monastery under Germaine bishop of Auxerre for the next twelve years. He had another dream, but this time from an angel, with the same message, that he should return to Ireland to preach Christianity. It was during this training period that Patrick realized his calling was to convert pagans to Christianity. It was then, he began to receive many visions that called him back to the land that enslaved him, Ireland.
Patrick was called to Rome in 432 where Pope Celestine gave him his blessing to go forth in his holy mission to Ireland. He arrived back in Ireland in the winter of 432 where he and his followers went to Tara and met with King of Lapghaire. It was then that St. Patrick reached down and plucked a shamrock from the ground and explained to the King that a shamrock represented the trinity. He explained that the shamrock had three leaves much like the trinity had three persons – the father, the son and the holy ghost, The shamrock became the sacred plant of Ireland.
The King was so impressed with St. Patrick that he gave him total freedom to spread Christianity throughout Ireland. St. Patrick went on to convert many Irishman including chief warriors, princesses, and pagans, baptizing them and thousands of others in holy wells that bear his name today. He set up schools, churches, and educated Irishman on Christian rituals. His mission lasted for thirty years and he used the shamrock to show the meaning of the trinity and how the three members of the trinity were separate entities, but yet one in the same. Many pagan rulers of Ireland found Patrick to be convincing and were quickly converted to Christianity.
Oddly enough, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue not green. In fact, in most artwork Patrick will be found wearing blue vestments with gold harps to represent the country. The color green represents Ireland much later, and the name “Emerald Isle” for reference because of the mass of green land and plentiful rainfall.
The shamrock is still a popular Irish symbol, but its a harp that appears on gravestones and manuscripts.
Some interesting facts about the Irish
- there are more Irish living in the US than Ireland.
- 34 million American have Irish ancestry, by contrast 4.2 million people live in Ireland today.
- the Irish fled the country due to constant trouble and turmoil of irish raiders.
- the Irish were the most harshly treated immigrants to enter the US, forced to build railroads, sold into slavery, and exclusively made up entire troop regiments during the US Civil War. It wasn’t until 1990 that the Irish began to stay in their native country.
- the Irish were not allowed to celebrate St.Patrick’s day in Ireland pubs until 1970. All pubs were closed for religious observance of the holiday. This law was overturned in 1970 when St. Patrick’s Day became a National holiday.
Because of the harsh prejudices against them, the Irish formed and organized themselves politically, by the end of the 19th century, St. Patrick’s Day was a large holiday.
The legacy of the Irish are familiar to all Americans, from the folklore tales pot of gold, shamrocks for luck, leprechaun, green, ale’s to the wonderful foods deeply entrenched in Americas culture. Maybe today you will have an Irish dish of corn beef, sausage or sauerkraut.
Regardless of your St. Patrick Day plans, chances are – you will encounter an Irishman. If you read this post – you already did so…