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The Truth About St. Patrick’s Day

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. A time for revelry, a time for dancing, a time for music, a time for copious amounts of alcohol, all for the Irish (and the Irish-at-heart). Every holiday has a backstory: Jesus for Christmas, keeping evil spirits at bay for Halloween, the pilgrims celebrating thanks at Thanksgiving … but what’s the deal with St. Patrick’s Day? Why all the Leprechauns and the shamrocks and the green? Don’t get me wrong, I can totally rock a pair of neon tights, but what’s all the hype about? I’ll tell you the theories and you decide in this collegiette’s guide to St. Patrick’s Day.

The Person:

St. Patrick. According to Catholic.org, St. Patrick was born circa 400 B.C. in Britain (surprise!), and was captured at age 14 and enslaved to Irish druids. Upon his escape at age 20, he entered the priesthood, immigrated to Ireland, and brought Christianity to the then-pagan country.

The Other Person:

Leprechaun. Originally “lobaircin,” it meant “small-bodied fellow” and was believed to originate from the Celtic belief in fairies and other small magical “folk.” They dabbled in mischief, fixed shoes, and guarded their gold closely.

The Item:

Shamrock. A few theories exist about this, the first being that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity in Christianity. Another theory: the Irish wore it on their coats during the day and chased it down with whiskey by nightfall. The final theory: shamrocks (or “seamroy” according to the Celts) were a symbol of rebirth during springtime and were thus revered across Ireland. As the English seized Ireland and imposed laws and regulations against the Irish language and religion, the Irish wore shamrocks as a token of defiance and national pride.

The Color:

Green. The original color for this holiday was blue. Yes, that’s right: blue. The color green became more popular because of Ireland’s other not-so-hidden secret: it’s a really green place. (“Fifty shades of green” anyone?) This “Emerald Isle” is overflowing with lush green fields; the color even found its way to the country’s national flag. Further, some religious sects used primarily one color. For Catholics, it was green (orange for Protestants—who knew?!). The last theory on green is that it makes you invisible to leprechauns (mentioned above). How can they give you a pinch if they can’t see you?

Speaking of pinch…

The Ouch:

Pinching. This theory also deals with leprechauns, and the color green. The pincher (the person doing the pinching) is supposed to pinch the pinchee (someone not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day). The pincher was actually doing the pinchee a favor; in dealing out a pinch, it reminded the pinchee to put on something green so that the leprechauns couldn’t do them even more harm. The catch: if someone pinches someone else who’s actually wearing green, the pinchee gets to pinch the pincher (say that a few times fast) 10 times.

And Finally…

The Day:

March 17. Theories don’t vary widely on this topic. St. Patrick himself supposedly died on this day in the late 500th century.

No matter which theory you choose to believe, at the heart of St. Patrick’s Day lies an opportunity to share a special moment with close friends and family. Who wouldn’t want a day dedicated to that? 



Catholic Online



Huffington Post

USA Today

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