Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. A day dedicated to celebrating your Irish heritage. Even if you aren’t Irish, you can be an honorary member of the Celtic nation, just for the day. St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with wearing green clothing, drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage, but what even is the significance of this holiday? Who even is Patrick?
This ain’t Saint Patrick.
Ok, this is Patrick Swayze.
Yes, a Saint, but not the one we were looking for. Perhaps a little more east…
There we go! That’s a depiction of Saint Patrick on a stained glass window in Oakland, California.
Saint Patrick was born Maewyn Succat in Roman Britain in 387 CE. Taken hostage when he was 16, he was forced into slavery in Ireland, and after escaping and coming back home, he became a cleric. He, then, went back to Ireland and spread Christianity throughout the island for 30 years.
Why March 17?
That’s the day Saint Patrick died. The Diocese of Ireland established St. Patrick’s Day as a feast day and a holy day. Saint Patrick is venerated in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran churches.
Not only does St. Patrick’s Day represent the spread of Christianity, but it also represents Irish culture. Green is the color of Ireland, which is why it’s so common for people to dress in green on March 17th. However, green was first introduced because it is said that St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the Irish.
There are 40 million people of Irish descent in America. That’s seven times as large as the entire population of Ireland. Irish immigration to the United States skyrocketed in the mid-19th century, which was when the Irish Potato Famine occurred. Irish Americans comprise one of the largest ethnic groups in America. Some famous Irish Americans include Presidents Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama.
What’s on the menu?
St. Patrick’s Day is a feast day in Christianity, but it also falls during Lent. Lenten diet restrictions are lifted on March 17th, so you don’t have to think twice about chugging that beer.
Corned beef is not a dish native to Ireland. Irish immigrants discovered the cheaper cut of beef from their Jewish neighbors in New York, as brining is an Eastern European invention. More traditional and authentically Irish, pork is the meat of choice. Other traditional Irish eats for a complete St. Paddy’s Day include Irish soda bread and colcannon (a potato dish).
Certainly, the significance of St. Patrick’s Day has shifted ever since it became a holiday. Historically considered a relatively small holiday in Ireland, Irish-Americans have used St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate their Irish heritage ever since the 18th century. Parades, green food and green rivers are now a part of the mix. Nonetheless, it’s still safe to say that St. Patrick’s Day will always remain a joyous holiday. One more round of drinks, please.