Jessica Sarrach ‘24, News Editor
Each year, countries from around the world gather to join in the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Whether it is wearing green to avoid being pinched or setting up traps to find a leprechaun and its gold, the celebration has become a cultural phenomenon, or at the very least a giant party day. While most people join in the celebration, many do not know the true significance of the day, or the rich history behind each tradition.
The holiday of St. Patrick’s Day originated from an Irish patron saint, St. Patrick. Ireland’s national apostle, was rumored to be born in Britain in 386 A.D.—though his family lived in the British Isles, occupied by Romans making him of Roman descent—and was forced to move to Ireland as a slave after being taken by Irish raiders at the age of 16. While in Ireland, St. Patrick spent six years doing forced labor and eventually escaped his slavery and fled the country, though in later years he returned as a missionary to spread the word of Christianity throughout Ireland. Saint Patrick’s life met its end on March 17, 461 A.D., the day that we now credit as St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the saint’s life.
Originally, the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day remained in Ireland, and mostly consisted of prayer either at church or home. The celebrations began to change near the 1700s when Irish immigrants in the U.S. began eccentric celebrations to show their Irish pride. These celebrations established the traditions we see today such as parades, loud parties, music, and the consumption of Irish cuisine.
When people think of St. Patrick’s Day, the color green often comes to mind. Historically though, there is no clear correlation between green and St. Patrick. The color actually tied to St. Patrick is blue, as the nights in the order of St. Patrick often wore the color known as St. Patrick’s blue. One reason for the celebration to be green would be Ireland’s traditional need for celebrations to be connected to a color, though there is no proof of this being the reason the holiday is considered green.
Junior Christine Silak enjoys participating in the green holiday to celebrate her culture, she said, “Being of Irish descent, I think [it is] really important to understand the truth behind the traditions. It is crazy to me that we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day as green, when his official color was blue.” The holiday has some outlandish traditions in Silak’s opinion, one of them being the color associated with the holiday.
One of the most feasted meals for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America is corned beef, though the original celebration did not have this on the platter. In Ireland, the traditional cuisine for Saint Patrick’s Day was a bacon dish. In America, however, the dish was changed to corned beef and cabbage simply because it was a cheaper alternative. Corned beef and cabbage is still a traditional Irish meal, making it a suitable substitute for the ham-like bacon used for the celebration in Ireland.
Many people correlate the idea of tiny angry leprechauns with the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. This stems from the Celtic belief in fairies. In this folklore, leprechauns were the shoe shiners for all of the fairies, and were often very grumpy. They would hide their money in pots at the end of rainbows to keep it safe from the other fairies that the leprechauns distrusted. They would often play tricks and place traps to protect their loot, giving leprechauns the reputation as mischievous souls. Many people do not know that leprechauns have their own holiday on March 13, so instead they celebrate them on St. Patrick’s Day.
One symbol often associated with St. Patrick’s Day is the four leaf clover. When the holiday dawns near, many people search for one in order to gain good luck. The reason the four leaf clover is considered part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration is because of its roots in Ireland. It is rumored that Ireland is home to more four leaf clovers than any other country, making the country coin the phrase,“the luck of the Irish.”
Freshman Brycen Mackenzie said, “I have always believed that if a person finds a four leaf clover they are lucky; I think [it is] pretty cool how that relates back to St. Patrick’s Day.” As most traditions signify a part of culture, Mackenzie was fascinated to learn more about that of the four leaf clover. He added that he believes that traditions become much more meaningful when you know their roots.
St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday deeply rooted in Irish culture and religion. From the holiday starting after Saint Patrick’s death, to the giant celebrations we see today, it is clear that traditions seem to evolve over time, but their values stay the same.