St. Patrick's Day: More Than Just a Time to Drink Green Beer

St. Patrick's Day: More Than Just a Time to Drink Green Beer

By Angelica Cullen, Feature Editor Originally published in Issue 9, Volume 33 of The University Register on March 12, 2021

St. Patrick’s Day is on Wednesday of next week and while celebrating in bars and restaurants with green food and alcohol was common in years past, the real history behind the saintly holiday is much more than four-leaf clovers and leprechauns. This traditionally religious holiday has been celebrated in Ireland for over 1000 years during the Christian season of Lent. Because Lent had restrictions on eating meat during that period, St. Patrick’s day was considered a brief reprieve from the fasting. Irish bacon and cabbage were commonly consumed as well as drinking during festivities.

Saint Patrick was born in the fifth century in Roman-controlled Britain and was brought to Ireland as a slave as a teenager. He is credited with bringing the concept of Christianity to Ireland. The date of March 17 -when the holiday is typically celebrated- is estimated to be the date of his death. The origins of the holiday can be traced to celebrations in the 9th and 10th centuries in Ireland. In Roman Catholic tradition, this is also a feast day and is considered an important Catholic holiday. The significance of the clover, or shamrock, derives from a legend that St. Patrick taught about the Holy Spirit using the shamrock to represent each branch of the trinity.

The way that St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated today actually originated in the US as early as the 17th century. The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in what is now Florida in 1601. Another parade was held in 1772 in New York City by Irish members of the British military. This introduced the tradition to the people of New York and the concept spread to other major cities in New England. Over time, “Irish Aid” groups began to spread Irish patriotism and organize parades with bagpipes. In 1848, the official New York City St. Patrick’s Parade was held, making it the oldest and largest civilian parade of the time in the US. Today, about three million people watch the parade procession every year.

Image on top courtesy of Wallpaper Cave