Believe it or not – St Patrick wasn’t even Irish
It’s that time of year where everything turns a shade of green. No, not quite the start of spring – it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Ever think about the guy inspiring this day of revelry? The first thing to know is that he wasn’t Irish. His name wasn’t even Patrick.
So, who is this guy?
It’s thought St. Patrick’s real name was Maewyn, and that he was British, and he lived in the 5th century when Britain was occupied by the Romans. The facts are often disputed, but it’s believed Maewyn’s Roman name was Patricius, and he was kidnapped into slavery and brought to Ireland. He escaped and became a priest in Gaul—the old-school name for France. It’s thought he came back to Ireland after he had a dream calling him to return. He went back to the Emerald Isle as a missionary, and it is believed he was responsible for the country’s conversion to Christianity. He confronted the Druids, abolishing their pagan rites. He was then promoted to a bishop, and it’s believed that after he died, on March 17, 461, he was named Ireland’s patron saint.
That doesn’t explain the party…
Right. So, upon his death, Patrick and was named Ireland’s patron saint. It wasn’t until the Irish started immigrating to the US that the day became a celebration. Looking to connect with their roots, the first parade in NYC was in 1762. Over the years, it grew from being a parade to a bigger, and sometimes wilder, celebration.
What’s with the shamrock?
According to the story, whenever St. Patrick explained the Holy Trinity to his flock, he used a three-leaf clover, or shamrock, to illustrate the idea of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all being part of one unity.
So—rivers are dyed green because…
The color green has long been associated with Ireland, given its lush rolling hills and nickname, The Emerald Isle. The practice of dyeing a river green started in Chicago in 1962.
What’s the story behind the corned beef?
When the Irish first came to the US they were very poor. In New York, they settled in the Lower East Side, which had a big Jewish community. A traditional Jewish meal was brisket. It was a budget-friendly cut of meat that was quickly picked up by the Irish, and transformed into what we now see as the quintessential Irish meal. It has since become synonymous with the holiday.
And the leprechaun?
Leprechauns are part of Irish folklore, and were traditionally thought to be mischievous male fairies. They are generally thought to bring good luck—but only if you treat them with respect. Farmers would sometimes leave out offerings of drink with the hope of ensuring a good harvest.
Which brings us to the drinking part. Why is that such a big part of St. Patrick’s Day?
If you’ve been to Ireland, or met anyone Irish, you will know that drinking and being merry are very important—and go hand in hand.