By: Karina Tovar, Staff Writer
Thousands gather to celebrate in the festivities of St.Patrick’s day, but how many know the true meaning behind the holiday?
Many don green colored clothing on March 17th the celebration of this saint’s day. Traditions of pinching, booze, and parades are trademarks of this Irish Holiday, but what is actually rooted in history? It may surprise many that popular customs related to St. Patrick’s day stem more from mythology than actual events.
A common misconception surrounding this green filled day is that Saint Patrick was Irish. He was born in Britain which was then under the control of the Roman Empire. Patrick was kidnapped when he was sixteen years old by Irish raiders and held in captivity for six years. It was then that he became a devout Christian. After leaving his captors and returning to Britain, Patrick was said to have heard a calling from God. An angel told him that he was to return to the Emerald Isle as a missionary.
Where then do we get the traditions for this saint’s holiday? Lets begin with the most obvious association with this day, the color green. The first color ever to be connected to this saint was blue, which was referred to as Saint Patrick’s blue. The strong identity to green comes from St.Patrick using the shamrock, a three-leaf-plant that closely resembles a green clover, to explain the Holy Trinity as he ministered across Ireland. It was during the United Irish Uprising in 1798, that the pinning of the shamrock on ones clothing, represented their Christian-Irish pride. It later transferred into wearing green clothing.
Another myth slithering around is that St.Patrick drove out all the snakes from Ireland; frigid ocean waters made it impossible for snakes to migrate to the Emerald Isle. Patrick’s cleansing of the snakes was symbolic; snakes represented the paganism Patrick was cleansing from Ireland.
The most anticipated event during St.Patrick’s day is one that originated in America. Traditions of parades and daylong celebrations began after the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s; the famine killed over a million and caused another million to leave the country. By the 1900s four-million Irish had immigrated into New York, Boston, and other U.S. cities. The first parade took place in New York in 1762 when a group of Irish born soldiers serving for Britain marched down their street to a local pub in lower Manhattan for a drink.
As a result of this Irish history, many traditions and social norms have developed. The next time you’re joining the thousands who celebrate this Irish Holiday, remember the facts.