It’s that time of the year again, green shamrocks in everything, Saint Patrick’s day 2021. People dressed as leprechauns and getting drunk reminiscing about your great great great grandparents who left Ireland for a better life in America. That’s what it’s all about, drinking green beer with a tricolour painted on your face celebrating the little green island across the Atlantic pond.
You may not be able to understand our accents nor pronounce your Irish-rooted names very well, having said that I struggle to understand some Irish accents and I’m born and raised!
I must admit Americans take on St. Patrick’s day impressively and with pride. The celebration started in Boston in the 17th century and grew from there over time. But what about the man himself, not St.Patty, unless you’ve canonized a sandwich a saint, let’s stick with St.Patrick!
His birth name was Mawyen Succat born in the 4th century. His place of birth is not exact but believed to have been born in Wales. When he was a teenager he was essentially kidnapped by Irish raiders to took him to Ireland and forced him into slave labour.
While in Ireland, Patrick learned the Irish language and culture before attempting to escape back to Britain. But Patrick wasn’t very good at escaping apparently, because he was captured again. This time by the French.
He was held in France where he learned all about monasticism before he was released and sent home to Britain where he continued to study Christianity into his twenties.
Patrick claimed he had a vision that God told him to bring Christianity to the Irish people, who were predominantly pagan and druidic at the time, so Patrick sailed the Irish sea back to Ireland, the north was his first port of call landing in Armagh.
With the intent on converting pagans to Christianity it’s believed by 7th century biographers that not only was it Armagh that converted but all of Ireland. He is the reason Christianity became Ireland’s predominant religion.
By the end of the 7th century, St.Patrick had become a legendary figure and was made a saint though never officially canonized. A story that followed in the decades ahead was that he drove the snakes of Ireland into the sea to their destruction supposedly attacking him during his 40 days fast, mind you, he wasn’t alone when it came to starving as many Irish people struggled to eat, he was just voluntary while visions of snakes was possibly hallucinations from starvation if it where me I’d probably fighting off hotdogs out to sea!
Scientists have proven there was no evidence of snakes during that time and with the Irish climate, snakes wouldn’t have survived. If St.Patrick really did clear out all those snakes while he was starving himself he got a helping hand from our terrible Irish weather. Part of me wishes we did have snakes at least then we’d have had some warmer days during summer!
It was believed St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the trinity, the father, son and the holy spirit could exist as all separate elements of the same entity.
His followers used this symbol and the shamrock was adopted over time which remains essential for the celebrations on March 17th!
St.Patrick’s mission in Ireland lasted for about 30 years, then he retired to Co. Down. It’s believed he died on March 17th 461 AD. Since then this date has been commemorated as St. Patrick’s Day and the celebrations have spread across the world throughout history.
Irish emigrants particularly to the United States transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday and celebration of things Irish with large numbers of Irish immigrants, who often had political power, staged the most extensive celebrations, which included elaborate parades.
Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, followed by New York in 1762. Since 1962 Chicago has coloured its river green to mark the holiday.
Irish and non-Irish alike commonly participate in the wearing of the green sporting an item of green clothing or a shamrock.
Corned beef and cabbage are associated with the holiday, and even beer is sometimes dyed green to celebrate the day. Although some of these practices eventually were adopted by the Irish themselves after watching how the Americans do it with style!
Back in Ireland every year we have half a million people show up in Dublin city for the parade and celebrations. With covid halting our parade this year we won’t be seeing any drunk leprechauns on our streets looking for their pot of gold.
If I do happen to spot one, my first wish will be to end this pandemic now!
So in spite of the restrictions and cancelled Paddy’s Day festivities, on the 17th of march I will raise my pint of Guinness at home thinking of the man himself who devoted his life to Ireland, to all the Irish emigrants that traveled to the states during hard times and to America for embracing our people, culture and celebrations into your lives.
Go raibh maith agat ár gcairde Mheiriceá