Saint Patrick’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on the 17 March. This date is thought to be Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland’s date of death.
It is said that his parents, Calpurnius and Conchessa were Roman citizens living in either Scotland or Wales. As a boy of 14 he was captured and taken to Ireland where he spent six years in slavery herding sheep. He returned to Ireland in his 30s as a missionary among the Celtic pagans.
According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelising in the northern half of Ireland and converted thousands of people.
A popular myth about Saint Patrick is that he is believed to have driven the snakes out of Ireland. Although there are no snakes in Ireland, it is likely that there never actually were any due to the geographical location. Because of this, some people think that driving out the snakes was actually symbolic of Saint Patrick putting an end to the pagan practice in Ireland.
It is customary on St. Patrick’s Day to wear Shamrocks and green clothing or accessories. This is because Saint Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the Pagan Irish. Another Irish custom is known as “Drowning the shamrock” in which the shamrock that has been worn on a lapel or hat is put in the last drink of the evening.
The colour green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St. Patricks Day since at least the 1680s.
The wearing of the St. Patrick’s Day Cross was also a popular custom in Ireland until the early 20th century. These were a Celtic Christian cross made of paper that was covered with silk or ribbon of different colours, and a bunch or rosette of green silk in the centre.
Corned beef and cabbage is a staple meal at almost any St. Patrick’s Day celebration, however, contrary to what people may think, it is not the national dish of Ireland. The custom was actually started in the US amongst the first generation of Irish-Americans. Immigrants yearning for familiar tastes of their homeland craved boiled bacon, but had to settle for beef brisket which was the cheapest of meat cuts. Cabbage was also the least expensive vegetable at the time and so it too became a staple food among Irish-Americans.
The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland was held in Waterford in 1903. The week of March 15th of the same year had also been declared Irish Language Week. The parade started from the premises of the Gaelic League in George’s Street and finished in the Peoples Park, where the public were addressed by the Mayor and other dignitaries.
In the early 17th Century Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church.