Wednesday, March 16, 2011
St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day is unlike any other religious holiday. It has by far gone the farthest away from its roots, and by that I mean now-a-days many don't go to church on the day or do anything religious. Instead, we all wear green and celebrate the Irish. Oh, and we all get totally hammered. I mean drunk out of our minds. It's supposedly not as bad as New Years but I have my doubts. I worked at an Irish Pub for a few years and I can say without a doubt that St. Patty's Day causes people to get loud, surly, or actually pretty happy. This is a classic example of a religious holiday mainly becoming secular. People still go to church for Easter and Christmas, though there is more focus on Santa and the Easter Bunny now. St. Paddy's Day lets us all pretend we're Irish for a day, if being Irish means you get drunk and fight people. I actually am Irish, and resemble a leprechaun, so there you go!
St. Patrick's Day comes from the Patron Saint Patrick. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century to a wealthy family. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. According to his confession, he was told by God to flee from captivity and return home to Britain. Upon arriving back to Britain, he quickly joined the church and studied to be a priest. In 432, he again said that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to Christianize the Irish from their native polytheism. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of evangelism, he died on 17 March 461, and according to tradition, was buried at Downpatrick. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish Church.
Blue was actually the official color of St. Patrick, but as the years went on he became more associated with the color green. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn for St. Patrick as early as the 17th century. The color was further used in a 1798 rebellion in which the Irish wore green to stand out to the Irish people.
It wasn't until the 9th century that St. Patrick's Day came into being. It was at this time that people plainly associated St. Patrick with Ireland and dubbed him the Patron Saint of Ireland. A feast to commemorate St. Patrick was started in the early 1600's and continues to this day on the 17th of March unless it falls on the Holy Week. The Holy Week consisting of Fat Tuesday, Palm Sunday, and Ash Wednesday. This has only happened twice though, as the date of observance changed in 1940 and again in 2008. This change however only affects the Catholics and Protestants that observe it as a holy holiday. It didn't matter that the date had changed for Catholics and Protestants in 2008, people still celebrated on the 17th, as more of a secular party.
St. Patrick's Day became an official holiday in Ireland in 1903. It was later decided that drinking was getting out of hand on the day so they made it illegal to have bars open on the 17th. That lasted until 1970 when it was finally repealed. Though there is a secular side to the celebration in Ireland, it's still mainly a religious holiday there, celebrated by members of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. A day long festival was started in Dublin in 1996 though parades had taken place for many years before. The day long celebration has now grown to a five day festival that attracts over a million people.
St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in America since the thirteen colonies. Early Irish immigrants celebrated the day to celebrate their heritage, though they were mostly Protestant at that time, not Catholic. The celebrations became more commonplace in the late 1700's and were centered in Boston and New York City. Since 1991, March has been declared Irish-Heritage month in the USA. This is of course due to St. Patrick's Day falling in the month. This follows in the tradition of America making it up to groups of people we have wronged by giving them a month.
St. Patrick's Day today in America is marked with a bunch of people wearing green (or else they'll get pinched), and the tradition of drinking with friends at bars and pubs. Several cities dye their rivers green in celebration, most notably in Chicago. Parades in celebration of Irish heritage take place in countless cities and even sports teams get in on it and wear green if they are playing on the day.
So, however you choose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, either by going to church and remembering St. Patrick's sacrifice for the Irish, or by drinking with friends and wearing green, be safe and have fun being Irish for a day. Oh, and eat some Lucky Charms! MMMMM red balloons.
Recommended St. Patrick's Day movies:
-Darby O'Gill and the Little People (you know you want to see Sean Connery sing!)
-Waking Ned Devine
-Far and Away
-The Quiet Man
-Leprechaun (not really...unless you like horror movies with a young Jennifer Aniston)
-Any episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.