St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 and is a religious and cultural holiday originating in Ireland to recognize the country’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, who lived from 385 to 461 CE. The day became an official Christian feast day in the early 1600s and is observed primarily among the Catholic Church, particularly the Church of Ireland. Saint Patrick is known for bringing Christianity into Ireland, with over 60 churches in the country dedicated to him, and the holiday celebrates this as well as Irish culture and heritage.
Parades and festivals are common, and people wear green clothing, as well as the Irish Celtic Cross and shamrock imagery. It is said that Saint Patrick used the shamrock, also known as a clover or trefoil, to explain the Holy Trinity to the native pagans when he came to Ireland. Three was a sacred number in the pagan religion, and this helped Patrick in his effort to convert them. Leprechauns are also common symbols of the day, which are a type mythological creatures from Irish folklore that are known for hoarding gold and storing it at the end of rainbows. The holiday falls during Lent, but the church lifts the restrictions of the Lent season on St. Patrick’s Day for people to partake in drinking and eating otherwise banned foods. Because of this exception to the rule, alcohol has become a staple of every St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday, Ireland didn’t have its first parade for it until 1931, and the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was actually held in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737, with the biggest parade now taking place in New York City. Around one hundred other cities in the United States also hold parades including Chicago, Illinois and Savannah, Georgia. Chicago even dyes their river green for the event. President Truman was the first United States president to ever attend one of these parades, back in 1946, and at least nineteen presidents, including George Washington, claim Irish heritage. The day is not an official holiday in the States like it is in Ireland, but it is still very widely recognized.
Individually, people use the holiday to make traditional Irish meals (cornbeef and cabbage being one of the most popular) and drink a lot, throwing parties or bar hopping. It has become more of a commercial holiday than a religious one and plenty of people who are not Irish or Catholic go out and celebrate. Beer companies, like Guinness, especially benefit from this and go heavy on their St. Patrick’s Day advertising. The Church has, of course, expressed concern about this secularization of the holiday, and many want to shift its focus back to its religious roots.
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