St. Patrick’s Day Origins Uncovered

March 17 is annually known as the Irish holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. Although this day is widely celebrated, the story behind St. Patrick’s Day is less known. Originally, March 17 was marked as a religious feast to celebrate St. Patrick, who was the patron saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the late fourth century. When he was 16 years old, the adolescent was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. During his years as a slave, St. Patrick worked as a shepherd, while simultaneously studying Christianity. In order to strengthen his relationship with God, he prayed many times a day. After six years of living and working in Ireland, St. Patrick managed to escape and return back home to Britain.

Later in his life, St. Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. His goal was to convert Irish people to Christianity. In the beginning of his work, he was not welcomed by the people. However, by the seventh century, he was revered as the patron saint of Ireland. During his lifetime, St. Patrick established many monasteries, churches and schools in Ireland. The Irish people passed on legends about the saint as well. For example, St. Patrick is said to have banished all the snakes out of Ireland. This story symbolized St. Patrick cleansing Ireland of paganism. In another story, St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish people.

St. Patrick’s Day was transformed from a small religious holiday into a secular holiday when Irish immigrants started moving to the United States. The immigrants in cities threw large parties and parades to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, prompting an increase of people to join the celebration. The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737. New York City had its first parade in 1762.

On St. Patrick’s Day, it is a common tradition to wear the color green and eat corned beef and cabbage. Initially, Irish people ate ham or bacon. However, they found corned beef to be much cheaper and easier to buy in America. Therefore, the traditional meat eaten became corned beef, and this tradition has been passed on since then.

Junior Lauren Murphy said she celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. “My mom slow cooks corned beef all day and then later we add cabbage, carrots and potatoes to eat for dinner,” she said. “It’s delicious, and the best part is the leftover food.”

Other students have different St. Patrick’s Day traditions.

Junior Denise Linn said, “My family and I drink milk that is dyed green.”

Senior Emma Fleck said, “I run in the St. Patrick’s Day Race in Baltimore with my family, then we go out to eat and watch the parade.”

There are several varying symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day. One of them is the leprechaun. The original name of a leprechaun is “lobaircin,” which means “small-bodied fellow.” Leprechauns are known for being cranky and for using trickery to protect their pot of gold.

The shamrock is another symbol associated with this holiday. It is a sacred plant in ancient Ireland, symbolizing the rebirth of spring and Irish nationalism.

People also pay tribute to Irish culture by playing the music of the country. Traditional Irish bands, like the Chieftains, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, are commonly played on the holiday.


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