St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow, and I thought it was high time that we delved a little deeper into the history of this green holiday. So, grab your beer, open a chocolate coin, and get ready for a history lesson! St. Patrick's Day is a religious holiday that honors, you guessed it, Saint Patrick. St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the fifth century. When he was 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave to a farmer in Ireland. He was a slave for six years, during which time he had a dream about God who told him how to escape. And escape he did. Patrick left Ireland and made his way to France, where he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre, for 12 years. When Patrick himself became a bishop, he had another dream from God that told him to go back to Ireland. So, with the Pope's blessing, Patrick returned to the land of his captivity. He began converting the pagans there to Christianity, and he cleverly used the Island's native flora to do so. Yep. We're talking about the Shamrock. Patrick used the unique three-leaved plant to illustrate the idea of the Holy Trinity, and this visual helped convert millions of people. Patrick taught in Ireland for about 20 years before dying on March 17th, 461 A.D., and by then, he was already known as the patron saint of Ireland. Now, there are a lot of myths that surround St. Patrick that aren't true, such as the story about him driving the snakes into the sea. You can find some of those myths (and their explanations) at St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated by the Irish ever since, but what started out as a religious holiday quickly turned into the secular “be an Irish” day we all know and love. Strangely enough, the first St. Patrick's Day Parade was not in Ireland, but in New York. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. The parade (complete with traditional music) helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Since then, it has grown to encompass the entire USA, prompting other major cities to create their own traditions. Like Chicago dying the river green- a tradition that started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. They then poured 100 pounds of green dye into the river and turned it green for a whole week. Now, only 40 pounds of dye are used (because of the environment), but the tradition stays the same. Anyway, Ireland still maintained that it was a religious holiday, and all pubs were ordered to be closed on March 17th in honor of the occasion. However, in 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day to drive tourism and showcase Ireland and Irish culture to the rest of the world. And so, the drinking began. Now, St. Patrick's Day is one of the most popular and widely celebrated holidays in the world. Beer sales go up, green is everywhere, and more people dress like Leprechauns than should be allowed. I'm not sure this is what St. Patrick had in mind for a holiday, but I'm sure glad St. Patrick's Day is what it is. To learn more about this emerald holiday, check out History (article 1), History (article 2), The Holiday Spot, and Wilstar. The photo of St. Patrick came from Hellas Multimedia.
May your blessings outnumber The shamrocks that grow, And may trouble avoid you Wherever you go.