What a weird and wonderful day St Patrick’s Day is. Lots of green everywhere, Leprechauns, three-leaf clovers, many parades around the world, Irish food at Irish pubs, attempting to sound Irish…..……and it’s all for a guy called Saint Patrick who lived in the fifth century.
So, did this Saint Patrick fella wear a lot of green? Seems a little odd to me. Who is Saint Patrick and why does Ireland make such a big deal out of him? So, much so that the whole world has taken to joining in with their celebrations?
Well, Saint Patrick wasn’t actually Irish. He was born in Roman Britain to wealthy parents. His father is said to have been a Christian Deacon who did it for tax purposes, as there is no evidence to show that the family was overly religious.
When he was sixteen years old, Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They took him to Ireland where he lived in captivity for six years. It is believed that through his fear and loneliness as a prisoner, Saint Patrick became a devout Christian.
Saint Patrick finally was able to escape and in doing so, travelled to Britain to live. At some point, he returned to Ireland.
He is credited with introducing Christianity to Ireland, becoming well-known for his teaching of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three-leaf native clover, Shamrock. Combining Ireland’s traditions with Christianity meant Saint Patrick was able to relay God’s word to the people there. For instance, he combined their powerful symbol of the sun with the Cross of Christ, creating what we now know as the Celtic Cross.
Mostly, Saint Patrick’s life is a mystery. There have been many stories about him over the centuries, but a lot of them are not true. One such story is of him banning all snakes from Ireland. Apparently, he never did that. Chinese whispers throughout time, exaggerates any tale.
It is believed, Saint Patrick parted this world on 17th March, 461, and so is celebrated on the anniversary of his death every year. The Irish have celebrated this occasion for more than a thousand years, with the tradition beginning in the 9th or 10th Century.
Originally, it was a religious feast, taking place amidst the Season of Lent for the Christians. People attended Church in the morning and the feast would be eaten in the afternoon. Consuming meat was not allowed during lent, but it was waived for the feast honouring Saint Patrick on 17th March only.
There was much dancing, music, drinking and eating. One of Ireland’s traditional meals shared at this time was Irish bacon and cabbage. Yum! (in a sarcastic tone of course😊). But in all fairness, I haven’t ever tried it, so maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds. Maybe.
That brings us to…..why green?
Green came into play for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Ireland was nicknamed “The Emerald Isle”, with emerald obviously being green.
There was also the green stripe in the flag which is included. The green represents the Catholics, the orange represents the Protestants, and the white in the middle represents peace between the two religions.
Saint Patrick used the green Shamrock clover to describe the Trinity of God, and so it is used in association with many things Irish.
And we can’t forget those little pesky Leprechauns with their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It has been said their favourite colour is green and would go around pinching anyone not wearing it.
One final piece of history……..
The first parade marched on Saint Patrick’s Day was actually held in the USA on March 17, 1762, not in Ireland. There were Irish soldiers serving in the English army who marched through New York City on that day, helping to reconnect them with their roots. Over the next 35 years, Irish patriotism grew rapidly. Today, the New York City parade is the oldest worldwide, and the largest in the USA.