St. Patrick’s Day goes beyond day-long festivities and drinking, history impacts Irish

March 14, 2017

Mara Green

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     The time for green beer, four leaf clovers and parties is upon us.

     But a holiday is not just an excuse to drink. Some celebrations have more history than marketers care to explain.

     St. Patrick’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick, is an Irish, religious celebration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the commemoration of Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick.

     March 17 is the traditional date of St. Patrick’s death and is remembered with festive celebrations. The holiday brings Irish citizens and people of Irish descent together in their shared culture.

     The holiday has become a symbolic event. It is representative of hardships experienced by the Irish, segregation experienced politically and religiously and the culture that Ireland will continue to represent positively.

     According to New Advent, the Catholic Encyclopedia, the holiday wasn’t recognized by the Irish government until 1903. Luke Wadding, an Irish historian in the 1600s, maintained the Feast of Saint Patrick as a holy day of obligation for Irish Roman Catholics before this declaration.

     While religious divisions affected Northern Ireland, the Catholic community only celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. But there were still several conflicts during some festivals that were caused by rivalry between Protestants and Catholics.

     The Catholic, Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran churches all observe the holiday. According to Circles of Tradition, a book on folk arts, the restrictions followed during Lent, such as eating and drinking alcohol, have been lifted and even encouraged.

     The holiday itself has gained more traction in North America. But parades did not take place in Ireland until the late 20th century.

     St. Patrick’s Festival event organizers in Dublin, Ireland have sought to spread awareness of the holiday themselves. The Republic of Ireland tried to educate people due to the wide commercialization of the holiday as well.

     These include a positive and accurate representation of Ireland globally, motivation for people of Irish descent to join in native celebrations and the goal to rank as the greatest celebration in the world.

     Circles of Tradition also mentioned that Popular symbols we see and wear also hold weight in religious and political symbolism, like the three-leaved shamrock used by St. Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans and druids.

     Green is worn because of its association with the Irish flag, Ireland and its association with the United Irishmen — Irish Protestants and Catholics that began a rebellion against British rule, according to the History Channel.

     Originally, Ireland’s festivities were a one-day affair, but the event later grew to be four days. All days consisted of ceilithe (traditional music), formal gatherings with food, dancing and church services.

     Irish Examiner provided details about the mark of the celebration’s end with the “drowning” or “wetting” of the shamrock.

     People toast to St. Patrick, Ireland and their loved ones by drinking a glass of whiskey, beer or cider with a shamrock placed at the bottom of the glass, which is either swallowed or tossed over the shoulder for good luck.

     Remember the next time you celebrate St. Patty’s Day that there is so much more to it than shamrocks, pots of gold and wearing green to avoid getting pinched.