This past weekend, millions of people in cities around the world participated in parades honoring St. Patrick, the primary patron saint of Ireland. The marches, of course, were just a precursor to the real celebrations that will take place on Thursday, March 17. As is the case every year, the holiday will be observed with fun activities like hunting down leprechauns that lead to gold and searching for lucky four-leaf clovers. So who was the amazing priest whose death anniversary is celebrated worldwide and what led to the unusual traditions? Read on . . .
Saint Patrick Was . . . British?
Though St. Patrick's Day is today one of the most important holidays on the Irish calendar, the man responsible for it was not Irish. According to ancient folklore, Patrick was born in Britain from where he was kidnapped and sold to an Irish sheep farmer at the age of 16. He escaped and returned to Britain a few years later and joined a monastery. After being ordained, Patrick went back to Ireland as a missionary. What's interesting is that when the clergyman died on March 17, 461 AD, he was largely unknown even in Ireland. However, over the next few centuries, tales of his miraculous deeds that included banishing all snakes from Ireland by chasing them into the sea, transformed him into a legendary figure. By the 7th century St. Patrick had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
Why is Everything St. Patrick Green?
By now you are probably wondering how green became the color of choice on St. Patrick's Day. Turns out that when the Order of St. Patrick was first established in the 1780's blue was the chosen color. It was only in the 19th century once green became associated with Irish nationalism that it also became the preferred color for St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
The origin of pinching people not wearing green is unclear. Some think it began in the US as a way to give people a green bruise, while others believe that it originates from an Irish myth that wearing green makes one invisible to leprechauns. The pinch is to those not wearing the color to steer away from the wily creatures.
Leprechauns, That Lead To Gold
According to Irish mythology, tiny fairies called leprechauns know the location of a hidden pot of gold. Unfortunately, to get them to tell you where it is, one has to find and capture the sneaky little guys. Though no one has succeeded yet, it is a challenge that thousands of people undertake every St. Patrick's Day.
Only Americans Eat Corned Beef And Cabbage
In the US, Irish families often celebrate the day with a meal of corned beef and cabbage. This tradition was adopted from the first Irish immigrants who could afford meat only once a week. Since beef was cheap, it became the meat of choice. Over the years, the unique meal has become associated with St. Patrick's Day. The Irish in Ireland however, do not follow the tradition — They prefer celebrating the holiday by feasting on bacon or lamb!
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
Resources: wikipedia.org, history.com