From fun sayings (being a wee bit Irish) to weird traditions (pinching those not wearing green), St. Paddy's Day has been one of fun and full of Irish Pride. How we got to the celebrations has many ties that are married perfectly into the "Luck of the Irish".
From Ireland to the United States
St. Paddy's is to honor Saint Patrick and the work he did throughout Ireland. He was born in Britain and at age 16 was kidnapped by Irish marauders who sold him into slavery to work as a shepherd in Ireland. After 6 years, Patrick escaped back to Britain to start his training as a priest. Once his studies were complete, he went back to Ireland with the intent to convert Pagans to Catholicism. Saint Patrick decided the best way to do this was by using the folklore and culture the pagans were familiar with as relatable symbols to explain Christianity. For this reason, you will see a lot of symbols and Irish heritage merge Celtic and Catholic ideals together.
Life in Ireland was something most loved, full of beauty and culture. Though, in the 1850s Ireland went through harsh weather that started the potato famine and resulted in over a million Irish immigrants landing in New York City and Boston. When the Irish first arrived in the United States they were treated very poorly and discriminated against. This did not phase the Irish, being very proud of their heritage, they would still maintain a lot of their traditions. One tradition was celebrating St. Patrick's Day. The most common ways the Irish celebrated was by eating corned beef and cabbage, Irish dancing, and parades which all can still be seen today.
Traditions, Culture, and Symbols
Speaking of Parades, the very 1st parade in the United States was held in New York City in 1762. Where people march playing Penny Whistles, Bodrahn Drums, or Bagpipes to name a few instruments while others did the Irish step dance.
What color represents St. Patrick's Day? I bet you would be shocked to hear the original color of St. Patrick's was blue. So, what gives?
Green became widely known to represent Ireland from the nickname "The Emerald Isle", to the National flower, clear into the Irish flag. Irish Americans would wear green hats as a way to show pride in Éire. Due to the huge population of Irishmen and women in 1962 Chicago dyed the Chicago River green and it has been a tradition ever since!
The greenest symbol seen is the Shamrock (Celts known as Seamroy). Ireland's
National flower is a 3-leaf clover that St. Patrick used to describe the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit). Saint Patrick used this symbol as the pagans'
related shamrocks to the rebirth of spring. If one ran across a 4-leaf clover they were thought to be lucky to find something so rare.
What is also rare to find would be a Leprechaun. These little beings are tricky and like to be confusing as one can tell from their roots. These small creatures were thought to have derived from two folklores. The name we know them as today has either come from the Irish word 'leath bhrogan' meaning shoemaker or 'lobaircin' meaning small-bodied fellow. Whichever the case, the Irish Fairies originated from Irish-American immigrants and their love of oral storytelling.
The one true Irish symbol you will see no matter where you go this St. Paddy's is, of course, the Irish flag (Bratach na hÉireann). The Irish flag is a tricolor flag of Green (Irish Nationalism), Orange (Ireland's Protestant minority & the Orange Order), and White (lasting Peace between the Two). The designer of the Irish flag, Thomas Francais Meagher, was quoted, saying "The white in the center signifies a lasting truce between the orange and the green and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped, in generous and heroic brotherhood."
We will leave this blog off with an Irish Blessing and hope you have a Fun St. Paddy's Day:
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.