The True History Behind St. Patrick’s Day
Here's what we know about the real St. Patrick
The modern St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that will take place on Thursday, at least in the United States, will likely be characterized by commercial lucky charms and green beer—all of which has very little to do with the historical figure of the saint. As it turns out, it took centuries for the holiday to accrue the elements that now seem crucial to its celebrations.
The March 17 celebration started in 1631 when the Church established a Feast Day honoring St. Patrick. He had been Patron Saint of Ireland who had died around the fifth century—a whopping 12 centuries before the modern version of the holiday was first observed. But very little is known about who he actually was, according to Marion Casey, a clinical assistant professor of Irish Studies at New York University (and a regular marcher in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan).
“We know that he was a Roman citizen, because Britain was Roman then, and then he was enslaved and taken to Ireland, where he either escaped or was released,” Casey says. “And then he became a priest and went back to Ireland, where he had a lot of luck converting the Druid culture into Christians.”
Legend says St. Patrick was actually born Maewyn Succat, but that he changed his name to Patricius (or Patrick), which derives from the Latin term for “father figure,” after he became a priest. And that supposed luck of his is the root of all the themed merchandise for modern St. Patrick’s Day.
It wasn’t until the early 18th century that many of today’s traditions were kicked into high gear. Since the holiday falls during Lent, it provides Christians a day off from the prescriptions of abstinence leading up to Easter, and around the 1720s, the church found it “got kind of out of control,” Casey says. It was to remind celebrants what the holiday actually stood for that the church first associated a botanical item—customary for all saints—with St. Patrick, assigning him the symbol of the likewise lucky shamrock. - Read More
1. Who was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick — brace yourself — was not actually Irish. Patrick was a nobleman born in about 400 A.D. in Britain and kidnapped by Irish pirates at the age of 16, said Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography.
Patrick was born into a religious family, but was an atheist early in his life. However, he rediscovered his faith while enslaved in Ireland, Freeman told USA TODAY Network.
After 17 years as a slave, St. Patrick escaped Ireland and found his way home, but returned to Ireland as a missionary.
"He said he was ready to die in Ireland in order to make his mission successful," Freeman said.
It's unclear if St. Patrick did in fact die in Ireland, but March 17 is widely believed to be the day of his death, according to Freeman.
2. Green River in Chicago is a family affair:
Another unique tradition that has grown in popularity every year is the annual dyeing of the Chicago River for St. Patrick's Day.
The Butler and Rowan family clans are responsible for turning the murky water bright green, and they've done it for more than 50 years.
The only way to become part of the six-person boat crew is to be related by blood or marriage to either Mike Butler or Tom Rowan, according to The Chicago Tribune. Each year, the crew shakes an orange powder — a top secret recipe — into the Chicago River from a sifter and it stays green for about five hours.
St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday in Ireland but became a celebratory affair because of Irish Americans, according to Timothy Meagher, a history professor at Catholic University in D.C.
In the United States, St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated with banquets at elite clubs in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., Meagher said.
New York City hosted the first St. Patrick's Day parade in 1762, and by the mid-19th century parades were common, he said.
"The parades are a statement of showing our colors, showing our numbers, showing that we are powerful and important," Meagher said of the role of parades in celebrating Irish-American identity. - Read More
ST. PATRICK’S DAY
On this day in 461 A.D., Saint Patrick, Christian missionary, bishop and apostle of Ireland, dies at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland.
Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from the Confessio, a book he wrote during his last years. Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a well-to-do Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the counsel of a voice he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain, where he was eventually reunited with his family.
According to the Confessio, in Britain Patrick had another dream, in which an individual named Victoricus gave him a letter, entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, Patrick seemed to hear the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching the Gospel, converting many thousands of Irish and building churches around the country. After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church. - Read More
Best Drinking Games for St. Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick’s Day also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick is traditionally a religious holiday. However over recent years it has increasingly become more of a secular celebration, although it is still most commonly associated with Ireland due to Saint Patrick being the patron saint. Nonetheless it is celebrated in numerous different countries and is notoriously known for being a day where drinking is a must do activity. If you are hosting your own Saint Patrick’s Day party or are just having a few friends round these drinking games will make sure everyone has a fun time. But always remember to drink responsibly and know when you need to stop drinking as one drink too many could potentially ruin the entire day and nobody wants that!
The Coin Hunt
You will need
- Some coins (either plastic or chocolate ones wrapped in foil)
- Some sticky notes and a pen
- Enough alcohol for your guests
- A prize of your choice
How to play
First you will need to write some drinking instructions on the sticky notes and attach them to the coins. You have complete freedom on what to write on the sticky notes but some starting suggestions are things like “down your drink” or “take a shot”. Then use a little creative genius hide the coins with the attached sticky notes all over the house. Next all you need to do is set your guests off to try and find as many coins as possible. The person who collects the most is the winner and should receive the prize. - Read More
America’s Top Ten Irish Pubs For St. Patrick’s Day
There are a number of establishments across America that celebrate the best of the Emerald Isle—and they are worth visiting all year round.
The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog Shop, New York
One of the best bars in America is The Dead Rabbit. Seriously. The joint was named the World’s Best Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail conference last summer and its head bartender Jack McGarry was named International Bartender of the Year three years ago. So what makes it so special? Downstairs is a traditional pub stocking a dizzying array of Irish whiskies and upstairs is a craft cocktail lounge serving a menu of tasty elixirs.
Swift Hibernian Lounge, New York
The best pint of Guinness we’ve ever had outside of Ireland is at Swift. Unless you have 20 minutes to spare, don’t ask owner Danny McDonald why it tastes so good. Let’s just say he’s thought more about it than any person should. The result is, naturally, a wonderfully rich and delicious beer. - Read More
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