The History of St. Patrick's Day

From the history channel:

What is St. Patrick's Day?

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years.

On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.

Who is St. Patrick?

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

Taken Prisoner By Irish Raiders

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)

Guided By Visions

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice-which he believed to be God's-spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.

To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation-an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission-to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)

Bonfires and Crosses

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. (Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries-spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.)

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From Wikipedia:

The History of St. Patrick's Day:

In the past, Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated as a religious holiday. It became a public holiday in 1903, by the Money Bank. (Ireland) Act 1903, an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament introduced by the Irish MP James O'Mara. O'Mara later introduced the law which required that pubs be closed on 17 March, a provision which was repealed only in the 1970s. The first St. Patrick's Day parade held in the Irish Free State was held in Dublin in 1931 and was reviewed by the then Minister of Defence Desmond Fitzgerald. Although secular celebrations now exist, the holiday remains a religious observance in Ireland, for both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Church.

Sign on a beam in the Guinness Storehouse.It was only in the mid-1990s that the Irish government began a campaign to use Saint Patrick's Day to showcase Ireland and its culture. The government set up a group called St. Patrick's Festival, with the aim to:

—Offer a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebrations in the world and promote excitement throughout Ireland via innovation, creativity, grassroots involvement, and marketing activity.

—Provide the opportunity and motivation for people of Irish descent, (and those who sometimes wish they were Irish) to attend and join in the imaginative and expressive celebrations.

—Project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal, as we approach the new millennium.
The first Saint Patrick's Festival was held on 17 March 1996. In 1997, it became a three-day event, and by 2000 it was a four-day event. By 2006, the festival was five days long.

The topic of the 2004 St. Patrick's Symposium was "Talking Irish," during which the nature of Irish identity, economic success, and the future were discussed. Since 1996, there has been a greater emphasis on celebrating and projecting a fluid and inclusive notion of "Irishness" rather than an identity based around traditional religious or ethnic allegiance. The week around Saint Patrick's Day usually involves Irish speakers using more Irish during seachtain na Gaeilge ("Irish Week").

The biggest celebrations in Ireland outside Dublin are in Downpatrick, County Down, where Saint Patrick is rumoured to be buried following his death on 17 March 461. In 2004, according to Down District Council, the week-long St. Patrick's Festival had over 2,000 participants and 82 floats, bands, and performers, and was watched by over 30,000 people.

Belfast City Council recently agreed to give public funds to its parade for the very first time. In previous years funding was refused by pro-British Unionist councillors in the city for not being inclusive of Unionist citizens, the refusal to fund it was labelled as "anti-Irish racism" by Nationalist Belfast councillors.

Since the 1990s, Irish Taoisigh have sometimes attended special functions either on Saint Patrick's Day or a day or two earlier, in the White House, where they present a shamrock to the President of the United States. A similar presentation is made to the Speaker of the House. Originally only representatives of the Republic of Ireland attended, but since the mid-1990s all major Political parties in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are invited, with the attendance including the representatives of the Irish government, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Féin and others. No Northern Irish parties were invited for these functions in 2005. In recent years, it is common for the entire Irish government to be abroad representing the country in various parts of the world. In 2003, the President of Ireland celebrated the holiday in Sydney, the Taoiseach was in Washington, while other Irish government members attended ceremonies in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Buffalo, San Jose, Savannah, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Diego, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Korea, Japan, and Brazil.

Saint Patrick's Day parades in Ireland date from the early 18th century.

Christian leaders in Ireland have expressed concern about the secularisation of St Patrick's Day. Writing in the Word magazine (March 2007), Fr. Vincent Twomey stated that, "it is time to reclaim St Patrick's Day as a church festival". He questioned the need for "mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry" and concluded that, "it is time to bring the piety and the fun together".

The emphasis on drinking alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day may be related to the fact that the pagan Roman festival of the Bacchanalia, sacred to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine was celebrated on March 15 and 16.


From Fox News:

To mark St Patrick's Day, Faith Central has compiled 10 celebratory tidbits, some myth, some fact, on the Patron Saint of the Irish.

1. The potato crop was traditionally planted in Ireland after March 17

2. Blue not green is the color originally associated with St Patrick. “St Patrick’s Blue” is used on Ireland's Presidential Standard or flag, while the Irish Guards sport a plume of St Patrick’s blue in their bearskins. The emphasis on green is thought to be linked to “wearing the Green”, a symbol from the 18th century on, of sympathy with Irish independence.

3. St Patrick is patron of fishermen in the Loire, where a legend associates him with a blackthorn bush. The saint is said to have slept beneath it, and when he awoke the next day, Christmas, the bush flowered, and was said to have continued to do so every Christmas until its destruction during the First World War.

4. A regiment of the Mexican army in the 1846 -8 War between Mexico and America was named after St Patrick. Members of the Batellón de San Patricio included Afro-Americans freshly liberated from the slave plantations of the South, and the soldiers were granted Mexican citizenship afterwards.

5. The first St Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1737 in Boston, followed in 1762 by New York. George Washington allowed his soldiers a holiday on March 17, 1780 as “an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence.”

6. Until the 1970’s, all pubs were shut in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day, and the sole venue selling drink the annual dog show. Lenten fasting – and the obligation to abstain from meat – were lifted on the day, which most families would begin with Mass.

7. St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in Ireland and also in Monserrat "the Emerald Isle of the Carribean,” so called because it was settled in 1633 by Irish migrants from St Kitts.

8. According to legend, on the day of Judgement, while Christ judges all other nations, St Patrick will be the judge of the Irish.

9. Since 1962, tons of green dye are tipped on St Patrick’s Day into the Chicago river, although the quantity has reduced, for environmental reasons, from 100 to 40.

10. Should you wish to carry on celebrating St Patrick after March 17, in the United States, you might visit the four Shamrocks in the USA including Mount Gay-Shamrock, W.Va or the nine cities named Dublin, including Dublin, Ohio (the largest Dublin in the U.S.) and Dublin, Georgia.


More info:
History of Saint Patrick and St. Patrick's day
2009 Saint Patricks Day Parades
St. Patrick's Day - ReligionFacts
The History of St. Patrick's Day - News- msnbc.com
History of St. Patrick's Day: Irish holiday has its roots in ...
Photos: A Brief History of St. Patrick's Day - Photo Essays - TIME

1 comments:

Jen said...

This is great! I'm first-generation Irish and I love this post! Very informative!

And thanks for the link! :)

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