St. Patrick’s Day: A Holiday Celebrated By All
by Eliza Edelstein
Most people know St. Patrick’s Day as that one holiday in March where you wear all green, pretend that leprechauns and gold at the end of the rainbow exist, and, if you're of age, drink a little (or a lot) at bars. Depending on where you live there are also large parades and special dances performed based on the Irish dancing style which uses hard and soft shoes to move in and is beautiful to watch. Before it became a secular holiday associated with drinking, parades, and wearing green, it was actually a religious feast day/ holy day for the patron saint of Ireland where people would gather together, eat good food (which hasn't changed), and pray/ give blessings in his honor for numerous things. So although this may be a fun holiday to eat lots of yummy food and watch dazzling parades, it would do us all good to remember the origins of this special day.
The most important part about this day, is supposed to be, St. Patrick himself. So a fun fact for all who didn't know: he was actually not born Irish. Interesting right? But he was very important in helping Ireland throughout the fifth century AD, leading him to eventually become a saint. He was born around the later part of the 4th century AD in either Scotland or Rome and his name was actually Maewyn Succat, though since his Romanized name was Patricius he became known as Patrick. Unfortunately, things turned bad after that: when he was a young boy, pirates kidnapped him and sold him into slavery in Ireland. He dreamed of God while he was in prison for six years.
He went to Britain and eventually to France training to be a bishop for twelve years until he felt like something was calling him back to Ireland, so he went back with the Pope's blessings and baptized many of the Irish to become Catholic Christians since they all were pagans at the time. Although he was arrested several times, he eventually set up a church and clergy. To explain the concept of the Holy Trinity he was said to have used a three leaf shamrock which is why it is so associated with this day.
The reason this holiday is on March 17 is because that is when St. Patrick died after working so hard to baptize the Irish people and set up Christianity there. Although the past is an imperative part of this holiday, figuring out how we got from a feast to a day celebrated around the world is just as important. The reason it spread so quickly is the reason everything else in history spread, whether it be disease, war, famine, etc, the reason is migration. People moved from Ireland to many different countries and wherever they moved they celebrated this holiday. Eventually, local and non-Irish people began to partake in this holiday and soon it wasn't just a feast in a couple homes in every country - parades were started, where everyone gathered around to watch dancing, singing, and celebrate Irish culture.
The symbols for St. Patrick's day are of course the leprechaun, the pot of gold, and the shamrock. The leprechaun is a Celtic fairy who looks like a small old man and who is said to be unfriendly and likes solitude. He became associated with this holiday due to the legend that he keeps a pot of gold hidden at the end of the rainbow and if you find him you will find it too. And what better day to look for a Celtic Fairy than on a Celtic holiday? The shamrock is three-leafed and three is a lucky number in Celtic tradition as everything good supposedly comes in threes. The shamrock’s three leaves can represent a number of things including past, present, and future or sky, earth, and underworld or as mentioned previously Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because of its green color it became an imperative symbol of this day since March is close to spring and spring is often represented by a green color. This day may have started out as a feast celebrated by only the Irish but due to the factor of migration it has expanded to include people from many walks of life and different backgrounds who may not be Irish at all.
In conclusion, this holiday is a special one, although it may not be as big as Christmas or Hannukah. It unites people from everywhere, people who normally would not have celebrated this holiday now get a chance to learn what this holiday is all about and also have fun eating traditional food and learning more about a culture who has different traditions than them. What an amazing world we live in where we can be united by a holiday that we wouldn't have celebrated if it hadn't been for its world-wide migration and the open arms of the people from many different countries.