St Patrick’s Day – Not Just An Excuse For Drinking Green Beer

St. Patrick’s Day, or what some people refer to as “Green Beer Day,” is a holiday that invites revelry, parades, and getting pinched if you don’t wear the color green. These are all traditions you most likely know of, but what you might not know about the holiday is the person the day is named after, Saint Patrick. But first, let’s get the mainstream holiday stuff out of the way – an article published by Hollywood Life gives us things we need to know about St. Patrick’s Day.

HL says the holiday falls on March 17, which most of us know. The article also mentions “wild pub parties” and “kid-friendly parades with fun floats” – in which many cities sponsored these parades today. HL says green is the color of the shamrock plant, which has three leaves and supposedly the scriptures say that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagan Irish folk. The article also tells us who St. Patrick was – the “patron saint of Ireland,” who was believed to have been a missionary in Ireland in the late 5th century. The article says Patrick wrote that he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Great Britain when he was around 16-years-old, and worked as a slave in Ireland for six years before escaping. HL also says that St. Patrick’s real name was Maewyn Succat. But where did all of those traditions come from and do they really have anything to do with St. Patrick?

The video above (from History.com) substantiates most of HL’s information – the video declares that St. Patrick isn’t even Irish, and was kidnapped by Irish raiders and spent six years in captivity. After Succat escaped, he converted to Christianity and returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD, and was mostly forgotten about. Centuries later, he was honored as St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland. A myth perpetuated that St. Patrick had “chased all of the snakes” out of Ireland, symbolizing the cleansing of paganism from Ireland. The video says that one problem with that myth is that there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with. Ireland is basically an island surrounded by water too cold for snakes to live in.

The story of St. Patrick using the shamrock or clover to illustrate the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – gained popularity in 18th century Ireland when people started wearing the three-leaf clover on March 17 to honor St. Patrick and to signify their Irish Christian pride. This tradition later led to wearing green clothing as well on St. Patrick’s Day, which is where our modern-day tradition comes from.

As for St. Patrick Day’s parades, that custom didn’t start in Ireland, but in America. The parade tradition took off after the “Great Potato Famine of Ireland” in the 1840’s caused hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants to sail to America. Actually, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York in 1762 when a group of Irish soldiers serving with the British marched to a tavern in lower Manhattan – perhaps that may be the association of drinking beer on the holiday. So apparently the traditions we associate with St. Patrick’s Day now do have a legitimate origin, however, green beer is just a by-product.

On the History website, other traditions are mentioned, such as baking Irish soda bread and cooking corned beef and cabbage, both traditional Irish dishes. Some other interesting facts are mentioned: more than 100 St. Patrick’s Day are held across the U.S., New York City and Boston are home of the largest parades and celebrations. At the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, an annual event, between 150,000 and 250,000 marchers participate in the parade, no automobiles or floats are allowed. The route goes up 5th Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street. The site also says there are 34.7 million people in the U.S. who have Irish ancestry.

[Image Via History.com/YouTube]