Celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17th, in recognition and remembrance of St. Patrick’s death. The saint is known for his reverent devotion and tireless servitude in bringing Christianity to Ireland. Although he was born in Great Britain and kidnapped at the age of 16 to be sold into slavery – in Ireland – he returned to the country as a young adult with a fervent desire to spread the good news of the gospel of Christianity. Although Saint Patrick died in the fifth century, his death was not recognized as a religious holiday until the ninth or tenth century. And it wasn’t made an official public holiday by the government until 1903. However, religious celebrations began a few hundred years after his passing to joyously pay homage and tribute to the man who spent his life sharing Christianity with the wonderful people of Ireland.

One rather interesting bit of trivia is that the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade actually occurred in the United States by Irish soldiers in 1762 in New York City, not in Ireland! The first parade of record in Ireland to celebrate the day wasn’t until 1931 in Dublin! And in another uniquely curious bit of trivia, in 1848 several disparate Irish societies in New York decided to form one Saint Patrick’s Day Parade together in the city, thus becoming the world’s oldest civilian parade. It’s also the largest parade in the United States with over 3 million viewers and over 150,000 participants. Several United States rivers go green in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day – most notably the Chicago River and the Savannah River.

Saint Patrick’s Day holiday falls right in the middle of Lent; thus Irish families traditionally would celebrate by going to the church in the morning and then later joyously celebrate the saint and all he did to spread Christianity afterwards. Conveniently, and in honor of Saint Patrick, Lenten prohibitions against eating meat are waived so the people can feast, dance, and drink. The main celebratory meal was Irish bacon and cabbage.

What’s Saint Patrick’s Day without a little Guinness Beer? One might be surprised to know that in Ireland Saint Patrick’s Day was traditionally a religious holiday and up until the 1970’s pubs and bars were closed on this day in solemn reverence of the saint’s good deeds for the church. However, after the law was repealed in the 1970s and pubs were allowed to be open, it didn’t take long for Ireland to realize the tourism opportunity that existed in the secular celebrations. Erin Go Bragh!

History of Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated every year on March 17 to represent the anniversary of the saint’s death. The saint’s death occurred in the fifth century (AD 461) and after more than 1,500 years the day is still a day of celebration in his honor. To be fair, after the saint’s death he was largely forgotten until the ninth or tenth century when the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick began to be observed annually on March 17. Ireland made Saint Patrick’s Day an official public holiday in 1903 and although the celebrations across the world are primarily secular ones, it remains a religious holiday to be observed in Ireland.

Saint Patrick was born in Great Britain, but was kidnapped at the age of 16 and brought to Ireland to be a slave. He escaped, but then he later returned to Ireland to bring Christianity to its countrymen. He is believed to have used the shamrock as a simple way to share the gospel of the trinity. In his teachings he supposedly likened the three leaves of a shamrock as representation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day as a holy day of obligation and solemnity. The religious holiday is also celebrated by the Church of Ireland, which is the Irish branch of the Anglican Communion. Since this celebratory day falls right in the middle of lent, it is enjoyed by all Catholics as a church sanctified break from their Lenten fasts. There are a multitude of Catholic services and programs on this day to honor the saint who spent his life bringing Christianity to the country he was stolen away to in slavery in his youth. Saint Patrick devoted his life to servitude and to spread the joy and love of the Christian faith.

There are many myths that surround the legacy of Saint Patrick. One is a fabricated claim that he eradicated snakes from the island. But truth be told there never have been any snakes found in Ireland, likely due to the fact that it is surrounded by icy, cold ocean waters that are much too cold to allow snakes to navigate through to migrate there from, well, from anywhere. However, since snakes represent evil in much of ancient literature it is considered symbolic that by bringing Christianity to the land he drove out the pagan ways, which were believed to be evil. Thus the myth that he drove snakes from Ireland was born.