St. Patrick’s Day: Exploring History


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Did you get pinched Sunday? If you did, you probably were not wearing green for Saint Patrick’s Day. Not many people know who St. Patrick actually was and his significance in the reformation of the Irish people. Also, why do we idolise leprechauns, 4 leaf clovers, shamrocks, and everything green in sight? In the United States, a lot of traditions vary from major city to major city; however these festivities are all a wonderful part of our culture and we should embrace them.

When Saint Patrick was 16 years old, he was kidnapped and kept as a slave for six years while performing hard labor. He later returned from Britain cerca 432 to aid the reformation of the Irish people to the Catholic Faith. By the time of his death, March 17, 461, St. Patrick had established many churches, schools, and monasteries for the education of the Irish people.

One might be wondering, “Why are leprechauns in the limelight of St Paddy’s Day?” In Irish folklore, the leprechaun is a mischievous little man who hide extreme wealth in remote locations. If a wandering traveler can spot a Leprechaun, then the traveler can force the fairy to reveal the location of his hidden treasure. In today’s society, the leprechaun is just a silly character that people like to dress up as and imitate for fun on St. Patrick’s Day!

The four-leaf clover and the shamrock are both symbols of faith in Ireland. Saint Patrick would use the shamrock’s three leaves to describe the Holy Trinity to the Irish people. The four leaf clover is a universal sign of luck with the primary three leaves standing for “faith,” “hope,” and “love,” yet because of the rarity of the fourth leaf variation of the flower, it stands for luck.

Traditionally, the color of Saint Patrick was blue. Now, because of immigrants to America from Ireland, whose national color was green, dropped the blue and adopted the green as a more favorable color. In Chicago, the city dyes the river green, which takes up to two hours, for the festivities. A food tradition that many people love, my family included, is corned beef, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. This tradition falls back to the immigrants from Ireland. The Irish export during the middle ages was salted meat. When the immigrants came to America, the bacon, which was the most similar to what the had at home, was too expensive. So, the immigrants turned to corned beef aka the closest alternative.

All in all, whether one decides to dress up like a leprechaun (or just in green), everyone is invited to join the festivities of Saint Patrick’s Day in the United States. Next year on March 17 just remember the teachings of St. Patrick, and most importantly, enjoy a hot plate of corned beef and cabbage!

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