Behind the green: there’s more to St. Patrick’s Day than you think


St. Patrick’s Day is not all about drinking green beer and painting the flag of Ireland on your face.  Before celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, you might want to know the history behind why it is a holiday and how people celebrate.

History of St. Patrick’s Day

According to National Geographic, St. Patrick was not Irish.  In fact, he was born in Britain.  He was kidnapped and put into slavery in Ireland at 16 years old.  To survive the slavery, he became a Christian.  He was in captivity until he was 20 years old and had a dream where God told him how he could escape.  He stayed in Ireland and began preaching the Christian message.  Ireland was full of pagan religions and St. Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.

St. Patrick used a three-leafed cover to explain the Holy Trinity. Christian believers began to wear the clovers, or shamrocks, on March 17 to show that they believed. (Photo by Autumn Berry)

St. Patrick passed away on March 17, 461 after preaching for 40 years.  He was largely forgotten until myths about him ridding Ireland of snakes became popular.  However, there were probably never snakes in Ireland.  St. Patrick driving them out was likely symbolic of driving the pagan religion out of Ireland.  After that, he came to be recognized as the patron saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick used a three-leafed cover to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  Christian believers began to wear the clovers, or shamrocks, on March 17 to show that they believed.  Eventually, the tradition changed into wearing green clothing.

What about the parades?

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was not a major holiday until the 1970s. Irish Americans were the people who started treating it like it was a major holiday. They held banquets and parades to get back to their roots.  The first parade was in the 18th century in New York City.

What about the stereotypes?

The first thing to come to mind when you think of St. Patrick’s Day celebration is often drinking a lot of green beer and partying.  Many celebrators, Irish or not, get clad in their green apparel and paint their faces before heading out to the bars.  If they are not in green, they get pinched and ” bad luck”!

You may also think of leprechauns and pots of gold in connection to the holiday.  Perhaps a bowl of Lucky Charms is appropriate to start off your day?

Green, leprechauns, and pots of gold are not the only traditional celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day. (Photo by Autumn Berry)

How people celebrate

Cities host parades, music, and food, and have crafts for children.  Some cities even dye their rivers or streams green for the day.

Suzanna Bregar, junior history major, said, “We have an Irish dish for dinner and normally try to go to the parade in Cleveland.”

If you’re interested in celebrating in a crafty way, you can try this recipe for St. Patrick’s Day cookies. Or you can make a DIY shamrock t- shirt.

“My dad would make green pancakes,” said Scott Whitaker, junior communication arts major.

Why celebrate, anyway?

Some people embrace the holiday because of its ties with their heritage.

“Well, on my mom’s side I am Irish,” Bregar said. “The more I’ve learned about what it means to be Irish, the more I have been proud to be Irish.”

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate; some are more interested in the religious impact of St. Patrick.

“I am not actually Irish, I am Scottish,” said Rachel King, freshman biology major. “I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because of what he did with Christianity and because I am an Irish dancer.”

Whether you are Irish or not, St. Patrick’s faith and his contribution to Christianity is a good reason for any Christian to green it up a bit this year.

 Josey Petz is the feature editor for The Aviso AVW.

Categories: Features

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