Monday, 16 March 2015

Saint Patrick's Day: Everyone's Irish!

        March 17 is St. Patrick's Day.
Saint Patrick's life is, like the lives of many early saints, a heady mixture of fact and fiction. What makes him stand out, however, is that the Irish Church adopted him as Ireland's patron saint in the 7th Century. Since at least 1737, when the Charitable Irish Society of Boston (Massachusetts) sponsored a celebration for St. Patrick's Day, he has been celebrated as the personification of Irishness. Today parades and festivals honor him throughout the world.
What we do know about St. Patrick may surprise you.
He wasn't Irish, for one thing. He was born in the late 4th Century to a wealthy Roman British family in England--where, exactly, is disputed, although it is agreed the place was near the coast. When he was 15, he committed some undisclosed sin that was to haunt him all his life.
Irish hills and fields
        Irish raiders introduced him to Ireland.  At 16, Patrick was captured in a coastal raid and taken to Ireland. He was then sold as a slave and for six years, herded sheep among the green hills of Ireland.  He relates how he escaped back to England with the help of God, and studied to become a priest. The Ireland he had escaped was largely a pagan land, a patchwork of small states ruled by chieftains. Although Christianity had made inroads there, it was not yet widespread.
Patrick proposed to change that.  He used his knowledge of the culture to connect with the Irish, and made many converts.
        He did not, however, chase the snakes from Ireland. There were never any  snakes there to be driven out. Nor has he ever been formally canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church, though he is recognized as a saint.
Putting on the Green!
        The celebration of St. Patrick's day that is now a worldwide phenomenon was originally a quiet religious observance in Ireland. Beginning with the 1737 Boston celebration, and continuing with the first St. Paddy's Day parade in New York City in 1762, it was Irish immigrants to the U.S. who turned St. Patrick's Day into an international celebration. The festivities came home to Dublin only in 1995!
         In the U.S., the day means "putting on the green," that is, wearing green in honor of Ireland and turning rivers (and rivers of beer) green with coloring. The best places to be are Boston, New York, or Chicago, but almost any U.S. city with a significant Irish population (which is most of them) will have some sort of Irish party.
On March 17, everyone is Irish. So  join the traditional toast to the Emerald Isle with a glass of Irish whiskey or a Guinness! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I am so glad to know about Saint Patrick's Day! Thanks for sharing details. Well, I am going to host a party in very next month and seeking out some suggestions for inexpensive party venue rentals in Chicago. Please help guys!