St. Patrick’s Day Explained

SP1(PCM) St. Patrick’s Day – PopCultureMadness wanted to give our readers a rundown of the popular Irish holiday, possibly debunking some commonly accepted myths and dropping some new knowledge about the holiday’s origin and traditions.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th, this upcoming Monday, and is the date commonly accepted as the day of St. Patrick’s death. The patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick isn’t even Irish. He was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century to a religious family; his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest.

Kidnapped at age 16 by Irish pirates, St. Patrick found himself in Ireland where hemar-17-st-patrick remained in slavery for about six years before he escaped back to Great Britain. After becoming a cleric, St. Patrick returned to Ireland with the hopes of introducing Christianity to the largely polytheistic nation.

Celebrated today for achieving his goal of bringing Christianity to Ireland, St. Patrick has become a legendary figure well-known to not just the Irish but people around the world.

Many are familiar with the legend of St. Patrick- that he is responsible for chasing all of the snakes out of Ireland. While that is a pretty cool story and it makes St. Patrick sound like a fearless noble champion of Christianity, it is not true.

The legend probably came about as more of a metaphor for his ridding the country of it’s polytheistic religions and establishing Christianity there, which is now the country’s most dominant and prevalent religion with the country being 86.8% Catholic.

CelticSt. Patrick’s feast day was celebrated by the Irish starting as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries. In the early 1600’s, St. Patrick’s Day was placed on the universal liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, making the holiday a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholic’s in Ireland. The Church of England, the U.S. Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America all also celebrate the feast of St. Patrick on this day.

Today, the holiday is observed by Christians in celebration of St. Patrick and as a religious holiday while others observe the holiday as a secular celebration of Irish heritage and culture.

Saint Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland in 1903 after the Bank Holiday Act 1903 was created by James O’Mara. In 1995, the government of Ireland established the St. Patrick’s Festival to “develop a major annual international festival around the national holiday over which the ‘owners’ of the festival, the Irish people, would stand proud.”

With more people of Irish descent living in America than in Ireland, the holiday’s popularity has taken root in America, becoming a holiday that about 97% of Americans plan on celebrating in 2014. The holiday has also taken root in many other countries including Argentina, Canada, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade to take place in America occurred in 1737 and was hosted by the city of Boston, who still celebrates the holiday with the U.S.’s third largest annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

river-green_1394088741New York City reigns in at first with the nation’s largest parade; while only 5% of the city’s population is Irish, over 2 million people come out for the celebration. Chicago comes in second with over 1 million spectators; the city even turns the Chicago River a bright shade of Irish Green at the celebration’s annual “Dyeing of the River.”


While the holiday has shifted from it’s religious roots, traditionally Lenten restrictions on drinking alcohol and eating are lifted on the holiday, which is recognized as the major contributing factor to the holiday’s association with heavy drinking and debauchery.

As far back as 1867 the holiday has been notorious for causing drunken accidents, riots, and fits of aggression. The March 25th, 1867 edition of the NY Times reports on a St. Patrick’s Day riot that included 20-30 citizens beating policemen with spears and swords. In 1874, the NY Times reported on the violence of the holiday’s festivities again in a Brooklyn mortality report titled “The Death Rate Increased by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

In 2011, TIME named St. Patrick’s Day as the second drunkest Holiday celebrated in the U.S. after New Years Eve. It’s well known among professors, managers, and supervisors to be on the lookout for absent students/employees the day after St. Patrick’s Day.

While some see the holiday as an excuse to cut loose and party, others celebrate by shamrockparticipating in the holiday’s traditions. St. Patrick’s Day is often celebrated by wearing green, even though the original color associated with St. Patrick was blue.

The popularity of wearing green ribbons to celebrate the holiday rose when the shamrock became a symbol for the Saint’s day. It is said that St. Patrick used shamrocks to explain the holy trinity to the native pagans of Ireland.

If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, check out this list of events such as parades and festivals happening around the U.S. for this year’s celebration. Or you could buy a pack of Guinness, make some drunken Irish stew, and watch Waking Ned Devine. If stew and movies aren’t your thing, make some booze-infused treats and have a fun time with friends.

Whatever you end up doing, be sure to have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day this year!

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