St. Patrick’s Day History and Traditions

Parades are one of the main festivities on St. Patrick’s Day. People from all over the world get together to have fun and celebrate the holidays. (Photo Public Domain)

For many years, people all over the world have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. People of all ages get together to dance, eat, and drink. The holiday is seen as a time to have fun with family and friends.

Although many celebrate the holiday, little seem to know what the actual reasoning behind St. Patrick’s Day is. Underneath all of the decorations, treats, and entertainment, there is a history that dates back to the 4th century.

St. Patrick was born in Britain in the late 4th century. He was kidnapped as a teenager and brought to Ireland to be a slave. He managed to escape, but returned years later in order to help others by converting them to Christianity.

By the time he died on March 17, 461 he had been a huge help in creating churches, schools, and monasteries for all of the people in Ireland. The Irish decided to name the date of his death St. Patrick’s Day because of how grateful they were that he showed them their new way of life.

They used the day as a celebration to honor St. Patrick and all that he had given them. They started to develop traditions based on things St. Patrick would do. He used shamrocks to explain the Trinity–a part of Christianity–to the people he was converting. They started using the shamrocks in the celebration and soon enough they became a symbol of the holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day was only celebrated in Ireland for centuries; it wasn’t until the Irish started migrating that it spread around the world. Irish immigrants celebrating the holiday opened up the eyes of others and they began to celebrate it.

The Americans reasoning was not for St. Patrick, like it was for Ireland, it was just for the fun and the celebration of all things Irish. The festivities eventually spread all around and it became a very popular holiday in America.

In 1737, Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade. America was the one who made green a symbol of the holiday. The original color that the Irish wore on St. Patrick’s Day was blue because it was a color that St. Patrick wore a lot. The shamrock tradition led people to wear green to match the color of the shamrock. Americans also came up with the idea of dying food green for the holiday.

The majority of celebrations around the world now included parades, feasts, and drinking—all because of the interest of tourists. Their excitement for the holiday allowed their ideas to  be spread around and be adapted by all.

Another symbol that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of St. Patrick’s Day is leprechauns. Leprechauns originated from Irish storytelling. In the stories they were described as mischievous fairies who would wear red. Once green became the color associated with the Irish, leprechauns were immediately changed to a small man wearing green.

Because St. Patrick’s Day is seen as a day of all things Irish to all the people who don’t know the true origin story, people started to incorporate leprechauns into the holiday. They started dressing up as them for parades and parties.

Leprechauns and shamrocks are considered good luck to the Irish. The holiday is now filled with symbols of luck; everyone who participates is surrounded by them.

For example, in St. Patrick’s teachings he used the shamrock– a three leaf clover–to help him convert the Irish to Christianity. A shamrock could also grow a fourth leaf, but it’s very rare. A four leaf clover is considered a sign of good luck and a huge part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

On the other hand, Leprechaun’s are believed to place a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow in the legends. If you are able to catch one, they will grant you three wishes.

Another myth about Leprechauns is because they are tricksters they like to pinch people. The tourists worked to bring the holiday spirit to all people by saying if you don’t wear green you will get pinched. Green was named the color that would make you invisible to leprechauns. People are supposed to pinch you when you don’t where green because you are not involved in the holiday and to remind you of how crazy the leprechauns are.

Even though here in America St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated mainly for fun, the Irish take it very seriously. They use it as a religious holiday and a way to have fun. The holiday has evolved extremely because of the impact Americans have had on it.

This year when you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day remember the real history and reasoning behind it. The holiday would not exist without St. Patrick.


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