ST. PATRICK’S DAY TRADITIONS
St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick. He was born in Scotland near the end of the fourth century, named Succat, but baptized as Patricius, which means “Noble”. St. Patrick. Irish raiders captured Patrick when he was around 16 years old. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, and worked as a shepherd. Apparently it was then that he turned to religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.Patrick wrote that he heard a voice in a dream and believed it to be God. God told him to leave Ireland and after 6 years in captivity he escaped and walked almost 200 miles to the Irish Coast.
After escaping to Britain, he had a second dream where an angel advised him to return to Ireland to preach Christianity. Patrick began religious training and after fifteen years was ordained as a priest. He returned to Ireland to minister to the small amount of Christians already there and to convert the remaining Irish from their nature-based pagan religion. Many credit St. Patrick with the introducing of Christianity to Ireland. Rather than alienating the Irish by trying to eradicating their native beliefs, Patrick incorporated lessons of Christianity with their traditional rituals. The native Irish honored their gods with fire, so he used bonfires to celebrate Easter.
It is believed he was the creator of the Celtic cross, a Christian cross with a superimposed sun, a powerful Irish symbol. The tradition of oral legend in Irish culture exaggerated Patrick’s accomplishments over the centuries, giving him credit for driving all the snakes out of Ireland by beating a drum and using the Shamrock as a method of explaining the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D.
The Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a holy day where businesses are closed and Mass is attended. It is followed 3 days of devotion and there are parades and other special functions. Boys wear a harp badge, girls where green hair ribbons and the emblem of St. Patrick is worn. Some men perform the Drowning of the Shamrock where a three-leafed clover is dropped into whiskey, removed and thrown over the left shoulder. The Irish do not dye their beer green.
St. Patrick’s Day has become a party day in the US with the novelty of green beer. There are parties and parades and children pinch those who do not wear green. Green is the color we associate with St Patrick’s Day, probably because it is the color of the Shamrock, or maybe because it is the color of Spring.
The leprechaun, a small fairy known to be a recluse and quite cranky, is said to have a pot of gold. He is a shoemaker and the legend goes that if you hear the sound of his hammer, you can follow the sound and attempt to catch him. If you do, he must tell you where his treasure is hidden. Although pictures of Leprechauns decorate most St. Patrick’s Day functions, the leprechaun has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day.