Every year the on the 17th of March Irish people gather to celebrate quite a bizarre saint.
St. Patrick’s Day, the biggest holiday of the year observed by Irish people and people of Irish descent, is celebrated annually on the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a cultural and 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 or alcohol were waived and people would dance, drink and feast–on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
The day not only commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, but also celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. For this reason it is celebrated in the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Australia and New Zealand, especially among Irish diaspora.
Parades, festivals, traditional music, storytelling and pints of beer are the highlights of the celebration. Green and shamrock are the symbols of the day. People wear green items of clothing (socks, ties, t-shirts, hats) and green accessories (fake beards, huge green leprechauns top hats, clover shaped goggles). Nothing looks tacky or exaggerated on this day!
Another icon of the holiday is the Leprechaun. This is an Irish figure of folklore that originates from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
Irish people (especially after a few pints of beer) can swear that they have seen leprechauns wander in the crowd during the celebrations.
However, there has been criticism of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations for having become too commercialized and for fostering negative stereotypes on the Irish people.
Why is St. Patrick so important in Ireland?
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is most popular for converting the pagan Irish people of the fifth century A.D. to Christianity. He is known only for two short works, the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Letter to Coroticus, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians. Although a clear apostle of Ireland, Patrick was actually British.
Born and raised in the village of Banna Vemta Burniae in Britain, during the time when Britain was occupied by the Roman Empire, he was brought to Ireland and spent his early years as a slave. He remained a slave in Ireland for six years during which he prayed many times a day. Once back on British soil Patrick decided to embrace his faith and train as a priest. He studied for several years before he felt ready to return to Ireland as a missionary. He returned as the country’s second bishop and taught Christianity to thousands. He was very committed in spreading Christianity and a legend says that he used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the heathen Irish: the small green clover has three leaves, representing The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. So it is very common to pin some pretty shamrock to your coat on St. Patrick’s Day before you head off to the parade.
There are a few legends about this figure of saint, one of these legends suggests that during a 40-day fast on top of a hill a load of slithering snakes appeared and started attacking him. But the brave Patrick fought back and drove them all into the sea, banishing them from British soil.
Another legend says that Patrick could raise people from the dead, some of whom are said to have been deceased for many years. He also reportedly prayed for the provision of food for hungry sailors traveling by land through a desolate area, and a herd of swine miraculously appeared.
There is no doubt that he was a very eccentric and charming person who left a mark on Irish history. Today he is still honoured as a symbol of Irish culture.
For sure taking part in St Patrick’s Day celebrations must be one of the best experiences to live at least once in a lifetime.