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The Significance of St. Paddy’s Day

Are you feeling low on your luck and need an Irish leprechaun to change your fortune around? Well, you are… not in luck because St. Patrick’s day is not actually about gaining the luck o’ the fey, nor is it about saturating your liver with green Guinness.  This holiday actually has a more thoughtful tone to them, with the drinking and general tomfoolery just being a side effect of this day, which may not have began where you assume. You see, St. Paddy’s Day, which is what the shortened version of his name is supposed to be, NOT Patty, was not celebrated officially in Ireland until 1903, with Dublin finally joining in on the fun in 1931 with a parade that is still quite extravagant today. This may seem confusing, but I swear that there is a simple, yet pretty cool reason.

The reason why this wildly popular holiday has become what it now is, simply put, because of homesickness. Where there was a large number of Irish immigrants, like in parts of the United States, Irish people in power began to have feasts and parades on St Patrick’s Day, which initially created to honor the Saint Patrick, who was initially kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave when he was young. But he escaped his captors in 433, and became a priest. He then went back to Ireland to convert the Irish, who were mostly Pagan, to Christianity. He then died on March 17, 461, after which he was named the patron saint of Ireland. Several centuries later,  the Irish began to observe March 17 as the Roman Catholic feast day commemorating Saint Patrick. It was only in 1762, when Irish soldiers marched through New York in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, that this day went from being seen as a day of remembrance to a day of revelry.

This single parade sparked a change as to how St. Patrick’s day is now observed, and what the day now means to people across the world. The parade began happening every year, with more and more music, food, drinking, and other activities. Now, over 100 parades are held across the U.S. alone, with the largest being in New York City and Boston. We even dye an entire river green in Chicago! These parades are full of good times, with bagpipes, floats, and everything that was in the closet with a shade of green on it being able to be seen out and about in the streets (plus a few green beers). The importance of this day was shaped from being a day shared primarily by the Irish, to being shared by everyone across the world. This celebration, in fact, may be one of the closest bonding events our society now partakes in. Sure, we also have the annual Thanksgiving, but this day always seems to mark the beginning to spring, bounding into the year with laughter and food, and providing an all around amazing atmosphere to get to know the common stranger.

At the end of the day, while everyone often sees St. Patrick’s Day as a loud, silly, drunken day where we all gather round to just have fun, it has a more thoughtful aspect to it as well. And it also is no longer just  about a bishop who brought significant change to Ireland. No, this day now serves as a day where strangers from all walks of life can come together, where the Irish can feel more connected to their roots, and where everyone can be seen as a potential new friend. And I feel like Saint Patrick himself would smile at the sense of togetherness that his day of remembrance has become. So drink responsibly, have fun, make new friends, and above all, do not forget to wear green!

Works Cited:

Britannica, T. E. (2017, October 03). Saint Patrick’s Day. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Patricks-DayHistory.com Staff. (2009).

History of St. Patrick’s Day. Retrieved March 12, 2018, from https://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day

 

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