Every March 17, millions of people across America flock to their schools and workplaces, decked out in as much green as they can muster. What most people know of St. Patrick’s Day is that it is that is a day where everyone claims to be Irish and the Guinness flows freely. This St. Patrick’s Day, however, it is your time to show off some newfound knowledge about a day of verdant debauchery and a celebration of Irish culture.
Who is St. Patrick? Born in 5th century Wales, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and spent several years among Ireland’s pagan inhabitants. After six years of captivity, Patrick escaped Ireland and returned to Britain where he rose to bishophood. He then became a missionary in Ireland and successfully converted many of the natives, earning him the title of saint upon his death on March 17. To this day, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
What’s the deal with the shamrock? Supposedly, St. Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to represent the holy trinity of Christianity.
Isn’t there something about snakes? According to legend, St. Patrick also banished the snakes from Ireland, and that’s why there aren’t any on the Emerald Isle. However, most scientists believe there hasn’t been a snake in Ireland since before the Ice Age, but who am I to tell you what to believe.
Why do we wear green? In Ireland, green is the color of Catholicism and orange is that of Protestantism. Many of the Irish immigrants that have come to America were Catholic, so when they celebrated their patron saint, these Irishmen and women sported their “Kelly” green. The abundance of Irish Catholics in America is responsible for the widespread association of green with March 17. If the majority of Irish-Americans were Protestant, then it is likely that we would instead be sporting orange.
Where is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated? Aside from Ireland and America, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated widely across the globe. Many European countries, such as Norway, Italy, and Russia, host parades in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. Other, non-European countries also participate in the festivities. Argentina has massive parades with tens of thousands of spectators. Japan, Tokyo especially, also has large parades where Japanese citizens enjoy pints of Guinness.
Speaking of Guinness… On St. Patrick’s Day, the brewery, which is older than the United States, doubles its sales.
Now that you are a scholar on St. Patrick’s Day, go out this March 17 and, while you toast sláinte, educate your comrades about that most magnificent celebrations of Irish culture.