St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) has very gradually grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Ask any person on the streets of England when St. George’s Day is (England’s very own Patron Saint) and very few would be able to tell you. They would, on the other hand, be far more likely to be able to tell you when St. Patrick’s Day is. It is difficult to ascertain why this holiday has grown in popularity the way that it has. Perhaps it is how it has been portrayed in popular films and TV Shows. Perhaps it is the lack of pomp and circumstance connected with the day itself -the only basic requirement is to wear green and drink beer. But nevertheless, March 17th is a day when people clad themselves in green and pubs fill up for the evening. Not just in the US but it many parts of the world. In this month’s blog we’ll take a very quick look at this holiday, its origins and how and where it is celebrated.
A Bit of History
St. Patrick was born some time in the 5th century and was in fact, not even Irish but probably from mainland Britain and many scholars argue over whether he was perhaps even Scottish or Welsh. He was abducted by Irish pirates as a teen and taken there to be enslaved for 6 years. It was there that he developed his relationship with God. He was able to flee and returned to England only to become a Christian priest and later return to Ireland as a missionary.
Although the religious recognition of the Feast of Saint Patrick dates back several centuries, the holiday in its contemporary form dates back to 1737 in Boston, USA. It was originally seen as a means to celebrate the huge Irish diaspora in that area and dispel any negatives stereotypes of the Irish that had become so prevalent at that time. Ironically nowadays Saint Patrick’s Day has been criticized for actually perpetuating the very same stereotypes it was meant to mitigate.
What to Do
- Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle and therefore it is essential on that day to wear as much green as possible.
- Symbols such as Shamrocks and four-leafed clover are everywhere you can even paint them on your cheeks
- Green Food – stores usually sell out of green food dye as pretty much anything can be made green on that day. Green eggs, green toast, green mashed potatoes. Fortunately, the dye is tasteless and edible
- Green beer or a Guinness – Go down to the local pub for a pint of Guinness (Ireland’s main beer export). Any other lager or ale will probably have a green dye in it.
- For that day people have the funny tradition of calling themselves/each other by their first and last names but they’ll put an O’ at the beginning. Smith, Johnson, Novak and Shakur become O’Smith, O’Johnson, O’’Novak and O’Shakur.
Saint Patrick’s Day is only a public holiday (a day off) in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the overseas territory of Montserrat. So in the United States, although there are a lot of festivities, it is still a normal working day for most people.
Well that was just a brief overview of this extremely popular holiday that’s coming up. Does your country do anything to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day? What do you do? As always let us know in the comment section below.
Pomp and circumstance – a ceremony of grandeur and extravagance, a formal celebration
Diaspora – the dispersion or spread of people from their homeland
Clad yourself – to clothe yourself or cover yourself
Author: Ricky Krzyzewski