Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrated on Mar 17 annually, may have begun as a commemoration of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity to early 17th century Ireland. It was observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church.
Later still, it evolved into a celebration of Irish heritage and culture. Today however, this day is celebrated by many worldwide regardless of religion or race. On that day everyone plays at being Irish all in good fun. Festivities generally include parades and festivals, cèilidhs, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.
Those that are religious do attend church services and observe the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol that are lifted for the day. The rest simply have fun dressed up in green, having green parties and lots and lots of drinking. Perhaps it’s because of the Irish people’s legendary fondness for alcohol, particularly Irish whiskey, beer or cider that has fostered this binge; making this an integral part of the celebrations.
Especially since The St Patrick’s Day custom of “drowning the shamrock” or “wetting the shamrock” was historically popular in Ireland and now spreading to the rest of the world. For those of you not in the know, at the end of the celebrations, a shamrock is put into the bottom of a cup, which is then filled with whiskey, beer, or cider. It is then drunk as a toast to St Patrick, Ireland, or those present. The shamrock would either be swallowed with the drink or taken out and tossed over the shoulder for good luck.
The custom of wearing green shamrocks, green clothing, and accessories also has its reasons:
St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided St Patrick in his evangelistic efforts. The shamrock may have been represented because of its regenerative powers and was recast in a Christian context near Easter. Icons of St Patrick are often depicted with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other- a sort of a visual concept to explain the Trinity.
This said; there is now room for some debunking and reveal actual historical facts:
First of all, St. Patrick was British, not Irish. He was born in Scotland in the year 387 when the Roman Empire controlled Britain. At 16 years old he was captured by Irish pirates and forced into slavery for six years before he escaped. He went to Rome where he became a priest. He was subsequently assigned to England but afterwards sent to Ireland as Bishop of the Catholic mission.
The popular belief that St. Patrick achieved sainthood by driving the snakes from the Isle of Ireland is unfortunately false also. It’s more likely Ireland never had any snakes; this fact was proven according to National Geographic. For during the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, the climate in Ireland was rather inhospitable to the cold-blooded reptiles. So snakes never caught on.
A more likely explanation would be that the “snakes” are an allegory for Druids. Patrick converted the Druids to Christianity and apparently was very successful at it; so successful in fact that in 1946 Pope Paul VI declared Ireland to be the “most Catholic country in the world.”
Have a good St. Patrick Day.
Good luck to you all.