Saint Patrick’s Day Traditions
Like many of us, I wanted to understand the origins of the traditions surrounding St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps even demystify some of the legends we have all grown accustomed to when celebrating this historically rich holiday. What’s the idea behind pinching, kissing, green clothing, and guzzling beer? Do any of these things really have anything to do with St. Patrick? And who is St. Patrick?
Who is Saint Patrick?
Patricius, born in Britain around 390 AD would later come to be known as Saint Patrick. He spent a large portion of his life living as a slave, though originally born into a family of privilege. His father was a town councilmen and a deacon, and his grandfather was a priest. Patricius however, was against the teachings of faith and often considered himself an atheist. At sixteen he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and placed as a herdsman in charge of sheep herds. Through adversity and peril he changed his faith and became a devoted Christian, and eventually he escaped. He walked 185 miles to board a ship full of Pagan sailors. Through his journey he decided to forgive the Pagan’s who retained him and devoted his life to teach his new found faith to anyone who would listen. A refugee who lived his life as a slave and a priest he would be known as a saint who was willing to break down walls between Catholics and Pagans.
How Did This Become A Holiday?
Saint Patrick’s Day, or more traditionally known as the Feast of Saint Patrick is the Irish commemoration of Patrick; the patron saint of Ireland and the arrival of the Christian faith there. The day is an officially observed holiday in Ireland, and it’s often celebrated in the United States. It might surprise you to know how much cultural dynamism Americans added to this holiday for that added “ump” of festiveness.
There’s an old myth about Leprechauns, and St. Patrick’s Day revelers would claim that a Leprechaun can’t see you if you wore green! So why pinch? They also said that Leprechauns were devious sprites who would pinch anyone that they could see. So let your friends know how vulnerable they are with a quick pinch if they abstain from wearing green for the day. There are a few Irish traditions surrounding the color green to represent their country and patriotic pride. “Wearing of the Green,” was coined as a term in a song of the same name that was meant to inspire Irishmen to come together for their beliefs.
How Traditional is That Meal?
In Ireland cows were work animals, and rarely eaten. They not only preferred the meat of lamb and sheep but most families couldn’t afford to eat their cows because of their work value. However, when the British invaded they brought their love of beef and potatoes with them, and eventually salted beef became a major export from Ireland. The meal is still pretty much frowned upon. Though the French and British loved corned beef so much they even had a truce during war that allowed both sides to stop at ports in Ireland to buy it. However, the cabbage portion of the traditional meal is quite authentic. Cabbage is a compliment to potatoes in Ireland – a national dish they call “Colcannon”.
Why Should We Kiss the Irish?
The modern holiday slogan of “Kiss me I’m Irish,” probably stems from the traditions surrounding the Blarney Stone; a legendary stone that hangs from a battlement at Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland. Legend says that if you hang upside down and kiss the Blarney Stone you’ll be granted the gift of “gab.” The word Blarney has even become a synonym for flattery and wit. Irish politician John O’Connor Power once stated, “Blarney is something more than mere flattery. It is flattery sweetened by humor and flavored by wit. Those who mix with Irish folk have many examples of it in their everyday experience.”
Beer! A Popular Way to Celebrate any Holiday.
Guinness is one of the more popular beers to have in hand on Saint Patrick’s Day due to it’s Irish origins. So much so, that we go from drinking 5.5 million pints a day across the country to 13 million pints for the holiday! Quite a few a bars will add some green food coloring to their beer in honor of the day although you would likely never find a green beer in Ireland. So why do we drink so much beer on Saint Patrick’s Day? Simply put, to celebrate.