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Things You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is the best day of the year to let your Irish colors fly. Traditional celebrations include dressing in green, attending parades, and eating green food. However, these weren’t always the holiday traditions. It might come as a surprise, but the patron saint of Ireland wasn’t even born Irish! WHO WAS ST. PATRICK? Not much is known about the man, and even his place of birth is subject to dispute among experts. We do know that he was born in a village called Bannavem Taberniae, which could have been somewhere in England, Scotland, or Wales. When he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and brought to Ireland for the first time. He was held prisoner for the next six years, and he worked as a shepherd until he was finally able to escape. After such a rough introduction to the Emerald Isle, it might be a little hard to understand how Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland. Alone and scared in a foreign country, he turned to his faith for comfort. While his family was indeed Christian, Patrick had shown little to no interest in the practice up until that point. After being held captive for so long, he felt compelled by God to leave Ireland, so that’s what he did. Patrick walked 200 miles to the coast, where he was able to board a ship and successfully make it back to his home country and his family. Although he had escaped the country, he couldn’t forget it or the people living there. After being told to travel back to Ireland by an angel in his dreams, he studied for the next 15 years to become an ordained priest. Then, he returned to Ireland. He spent the next 40 years spreading the Christian faith among the Protestant people until he died on March 17 around 460 A.D. His life has been celebrated ever since. HOLIDAY CELEBRATION For a long time, St. Patrick’s Day was seen as an exclusively religious holiday in Ireland. Irish law went so far as to order pubs closed on March 17. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Irish government saw an opportunity to use the holiday as a way to increase tourism and spread the joy of Ireland’s customs and culture around the world.
Surprisingly, most of the traditions we associate with St. Patrick’s Day began in the United States. In fact, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York was in 1762. Irish soldiers serving the British army marched a few blocks through the city to a tavern. Not only did this help the Irish reconnect with their roots, but it also brought them together with the other Irishmen serving in the army. Today, the St. Patrick Day Parade is one of the largest in the United States, with 200,000 participates and over 3 million audience members. WAIT, THAT’S A MYTH? If learning that St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish or that the holiday’s seemingly traditional celebration didn’t even come from Ireland, there are a few other mind-boggling facts that surround both the saint and the holiday. Many of the stories told about St. Patrick are legends or myths. One of his best- known roles as the saint who drove out the snakes from Ireland was used as symbol to exaggerate how St. Patrick “cleansed” Ireland from paganism. Another legend revolves around the shamrock. It’s said that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish people about the Holy Trinity. After his death, people would pin clovers to their clothing to celebrate what St. Patrick stood for. This eventually led to people wearing green in their clothes instead of wearing the clover. Speaking of green, you might also be surprised to learn that the color wasn’t always used to symbolize St. Patrick’s Day. A shade of blue called “St. Patrick’s blue” was the color many followers of St. Patrick wore. You can still see St. Patrick’s blue in paintings of him, shown underneath the green we’ve all come to love. Now when celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, you can enjoy the festivities with a better idea of where the traditions came from. Don your favorite Irish gear and enjoy the celebrations!
- Dr. Taylor
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