Shamrock necklaces, green crop tops, and quality beer. These are the three things that come to my mind when thinking of St. Patrick’s Day. As a woman of Irish heritage, I’m ashamed to say I have zero clue what St. Patrick’s Day is exactly celebrating, but I figured the true point of the holiday can’t just be about getting trashed, so I decided to do some research.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the life of, you guessed it, St. Patrick. He is the national apostle of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the country. The symbol of the shamrock comes from the legend that St. Patrick explained the Holy Trinity using the three leaves of a clover. The color green did not become associated with the holiday until the Irish Rebellion. Historically, the color blue was associated with St. Patrick. However, during the Irish Rebellion, British soldiers wore red, so the Irish soldiers decided to wear green. When St. Patrick’s Day first became a holiday, families would typically go to church in the morning, and then be able to eat meat and drink alcohol at night as the prohibitions of Lent were removed for the night.
It is still surprising to me that St. Patrick’s Day has typically been celebrated as a religious holiday, even in modern Ireland. In fact, pubs in Ireland were legally mandated to shut down on St. Patrick’s Day until the 1970s. In the 1990s the Irish government saw the possibility to use St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to increase tourism to the country, and allowed and encouraged pubs to open up to the public.
So there you have it. An incredibly brief and simple explanation of the history of St. Patrick’s Day. Hopefully now you have something intelligent to say on the 17th instead of “Kiss me I’m Irish.”