What Are The Origins of St. Patrick’s Day? is a question often asked
St. Patrick’s Day is one of the more popular holidays in the USA, and for good reason. Of course, it’s still celebrated in Ireland but in quite a different way.
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The history of St. Paddy’s Day is interesting and is probably more myth than historical fact. So, let’s dive into the origins of St. Patrick’s Day to see where it came from and why it makes us dye everything green.
Who was St. Patrick?
As you may already know, Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in the late 4th century in Roman Britain and, after a turbulent childhood, became a religious figure. His biggest (possibly true) claim to fame was converting Ireland to Christianity in the 5th century.
St. Patrick died on March 17, 461, which is why we celebrate it as St. Patrick’s Day. His feast day was celebrated by the 11th century as part of the Catholic calendar, but he didn’t become Ireland’s patron saint until the 1600s. At that point, St. Paddy’s Day was just the same as any other saint’s day: eating, dancing, and drinking.
The Modern St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patty’s Day became a national holiday in Ireland by 1903, although a law was later introduced that shut pubs on this day. Surprisingly, it lasted until the 1970s!
The St. Patrick’s Day we all know and love is mainly thanks to the Irish population in the USA. Ireland is quite a religious country, so the celebration remained more on the conservative side. Sure, there were still parades and drinking, but church was a big part of the day.
Irish immigrants brought St. Patrick with them to America in the late-19th century and still celebrated his day as a largely religious thing. But as the world moved away from religion, it took on a more secular slant. Instead, it became associated with a love of all things Irish.
Where do the Symbols Come From?
St. Patrick’s Day is well known for green and shamrocks. Shamrocks have a long history of symbolism in Ireland, as it’s believed St. Patrick used them to explain God to the pagan Irish. As such, shamrocks have earned a place as part of the go-to St. Paddy’s Day celebrations.
Green is just as easy to explain. Its association with Ireland goes back to the 11th century in folklore (it’s often called The Emerald Isle). It’s considered good luck to wear green on St. Patty’s Day (or bad luck to not wear it, as this is probably less common).
Of course, Americans did what they do best with St. Patrick’s Day: ramped it all the way up. That’s why we’re treated to the likes of green rivers and beer and the beloved Shamrock Shake.
St. Paddy’s Day is now as much about partying as it is about the saint himself. The best way to celebrate him is to throw on some green, grab a shamrock, and drink plenty of green beer!