What is St. Patrick’s Day?
There are many myths and legends about st. Patrick’s Day. But what is St. Patrick’s Day? St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 annually, commemorating St. Patrick’s death, believed to be March 17th, 461. Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. Born in England, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. While St. Patrick has been credited with banishing snakes from Ireland, it is a myth. It’s true no snakes exist on the island today, but they never did. The waters are too icy for any snake to have migrated to Ireland.
The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day has been a religious holiday in Ireland, and up until the 1970’s, Ireland mandated pubs be closed on March 17th.
Since around the 9th or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17. However, the first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland but in the United States. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.
St. Patrick’s Day Myths and Legends
The shamrock is the most popular symbol of the Irish. It looks like a 3 leaved clover. St. Patrick is said to have been standing in a field of shamrocks when he drove the snakes and toads away.
The four leaves of the shamrock are said to symbolize:
One Leaf = Hope
One Leaf = Faith
One Leaf = Love
One Leaf = Luck
It’s Your Lucky Day
Need a little luck? Try one of these “lucky” traditions!
Find a Four Leaf Clover – Some modern day spiritualists claim that a four leaf clover releases energy and helps one’s judgment. Yet others feel that finding a four-leaf clover brings good fortune, not just on St. Patrick’s Day.
I always look for a four leaf clover – Do you?
Wear green – This color represents Ireland (the “Emerald Isle”), the shamrock, and spring. It is as closely associated with St. Patrick’s Day as red is with Valentine’s Day. Did you see the Shamrock Shake recipe?
Kiss the Blarney Stone – This famous stone is set in one of the walls in the tower of the Blarney Castle. It’s thought that an old woman cast a spell on the stone as a reward to the king for saving someone from drowning. Under the spell, the king spoke eloquently. According to legend, kissing the Blarney Stone brings the kisser “persuasive eloquence” (“blarney”). But you will have to travel a long way to try this one out! The Blarney Castle is located in Cork, Ireland!
A Wee Bit about Leprechauns
Leprechauns, in folklore, are fairies in the shape of old men, sometimes thought to be cobblers, with a hidden pot of gold. Leprechauns are said to be very small and sometimes live in farmhouses or wine cellars. They are known to aid humans and perform small labors for them. Sometimes they ask humans for supplies and furniture, and in return they give objects which bring luck and fortune.
They are described as merry little fellows dressed in old fashioned clothes; green, with a red cap, leather apron, and buckled shoes. Full grown leprechauns are reported to only be about 2 feet tall. They spend a great deal of their time making shoes. Most importantly, each and every leprechaun possesses a hidden pot of gold. Stories say that treasure hunters looking for a leprechaun’s pot of gold should listen for the sound of a shoemaker’s hammer. If caught, the leprechaun must reveal the whereabouts of his pot of gold. But be careful! Keep your eyes on the tricky little leprechaun. He will try to trick you into looking away, and if you do, he vanishes and all hopes of finding the pot of gold are lost.
An Irish Toast
May the leprechauns be near you
To spread luck along your way.
And may all the Irish angels
Smile upon you St. Patrick’s Day.