Saint Patrick’s Day
March 17th is Saint Patrick’s Day, and for many it’s a day for good natured (and green) fun. Whether you’re a fan of the day or not, did you know there’s a lot of interesting history and lore surrounding the day? If you’d like to spruce up your Patty’s Day trivia, check out some of these fun facts!
Why are 4 leaf clovers lucky?
Back in ancient Celtic times, the 4 leaf clover was seen as a lucky charm. It was said to have the power of protection and to drive away evil spirits.
Why is green the color of the day?
Believe it or not, for most of history the official color of the day was actually blue. It was even known as “Saint Patrick’s Blue”. It was the color worn by the knights of the Order of Saint Patrick, and became the color of the day’s festivities as well. However, in the 18th century, the supporters of the Irish Independence began using the color green to represent their cause. Eventually green became the color of Ireland, and thus part of Saint Patrick’s Day.
Corned beef isn’t actually the traditional food of the day!
The traditional Irish meal to have on this day is actually a type of thick bacon (similar to the ham-like Canadian bacon). However, when Irish immigrants began pouring into New York City in the 19th century, most found that they were unable to afford the type of thick cut bacon as tradition required. Instead, they decided to substitute it with corned beef, a salty cured beef that was cheap and easy to prepare.
The day used to be a holy day, but later became a symbol of Irish pride
For centuries, Saint Patrick’s Day was simply an Irish holy day, a religious feast observed by followers of the Catholic Church. It was a day to honor Saint Patrick, and was celebrated by attending church in the morning, then enjoying a modest feast in the afternoon. Certainly not the party day most of us know today!
The Saint Patrick’s Day many of us know today is an Americanized version of the holiday. In the 19th century, when many Irish immigrated to America, they found themselves in a country that resented and rejected them. The Irish who came to America then were often denied jobs, living spaces, and were often subject to beatings and intimidation by ani-Catholic mobs. As a way to fight back, they began holding Saint Patrick’s Day parades. This was not only a way to celebrate Irish pride, but it was also a way to show that there was strength in numbers and to fight against the hate they were experiencing.
What is the legend of Saint Patrick?
The legend behind Saint Patrick is that he was credited with being an almost supernatural like figure who helped spread Christianity throughout Ireland. One way in which showed the power of his faith and gained the people’s favor was by ridding Ireland of snakes. It was said that during this time, Ireland was plagued by a large population serpents. Realizing what a nuisance this large snake population was, Patrick decided to do something to assist the people of the island and rid them of these slinky venomous pests. One morning he stood on a hillside and delivered a sermon so powerful that it drove the entire island’s serpent population into the see. Thus making Ireland snake free. The Irish Celtic people were so in awe of his power, and grateful for what he had done that they began converting to his faith in droves.
The Real Story
As with every legend, there is always a bit of actual history behind it. Believe it or not Saint Patrick was a real person who lived during the 5th century. His real name was Maewyn Succat, and he was born in Britain right at the end of the 4th century. When Maewyn was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery. He ended up as a sheep herder, and spent the next six years of his life living amongst the Irish Celtic people herding sheep. One day, after his sixth year of captivity, he managed to escape. He walked over 200 hundred miles until he found his way to the coast. There he managed to convince some sailors to let him aboard their ship and allow him safe passage to Britain.
When Maewyn returned home, he had an incredibly vivid dream. In the dream a voice came to him and told him he was to return to Ireland to preach the gospel. With that, he joined a monestary, and spent the next 15 years training for priesthood and learning how to become a missionary. After his training was complete, and he formally became a priest, his name was changed to Patricius and he set off to Ireland. There, he eventually founded several churches, and was known for his willingness to help those who knocked on his doors without judgement.
White he was a loved and celebrated figure, he did not rid Ireland of snakes as the legend goes. Ireland did that itself, as snakes were never native to the Island. However, snakes did have a part in his story. Patrick was credited with helping the Holy Roman Empire drive out the native Celtic faith. The Celts used a spiral symbol that, to those in Britain and elsewhere, looked like a snake. So when the legend talks of Patrick driving out snakes, it’s really referring to driving out the Celtic faith.