Celebrated each year on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the life and miracles of the Irish patron saint and religious icon, St. Patrick, who is credited with bringing Christianity to the emerald isle. Parades, shamrocks and wearing green are all considered to be definitive aspects of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
According to popular legend, St. Patrick was originally celebrated because he drove all of the snakes from Ireland (there were no snakes there). This act is believed to be symbolic of St. Patrick driving Paganism from Ireland.
St. Patrick, who is well-known for building churches and spreading Christianity throughout Ireland, performed many miracles during his lifetime, including the time during his travels when he and his companions were without food. He prayed to God and wild pigs appeared from nowhere.
While most holidays celebrate the birth of a famous figure, March 17th is the day that St. Patrick died in the 5th century.
Popular legend claims that St. Patrick, born Maewyn Succat in Britain, was abducted and sent to Ireland as a slave. He spent six years working in fields tending sheep, while sleeping in the rain and cold without shelter. During this time he developed a close relationship with God and had a vision. After escaping slavery and traveling the world, an angel told him to minister Christianity to the Irish.
St. Patrick spent 20 years in a monastery in France, devoting himself to Christ before returning to Ireland. Upon his return, St. Patrick worked to convert the pagans of Ireland to Christianity.
One of the symbols associated with St. Patrick is the three-leaf clover or shamrock. According to popular legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock while ministering to the people of Ireland to illustrate the Christian Trinity, associating it with the clover’s three leaves.
All Things Green
One of the most popular St. Patrick’s Day customs, when celebrating in the United States, is wearing, (and decorating in), green. In fact, doing so is considered lucky.
While many bars and pubs dye food and beer green with food coloring, some cities, such as Chicago, take it a step further. Each year on St. Patrick's Day, the city dyes the Chicago River green for a day.
From Australia to Canada, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated across the globe. One of the most prominent ways the world celebrates St. Patrick’s Day is with parades. New York holds the longest running civilian parade in the world. It’s estimated that almost three million viewers watch the New York parade.
According to John Stones, author of Celebration Graphics Sourcebook: Festive Designs from All Cultures, “While the Irish capital of Dublin hosts a very large five-day celebration, this is dwarfed by the even larger St. Patrick’s Parade in Manhattan, and there are extensive celebrations in many other cities around the world.”
- Celebration Graphics Sourcebook: Festive Designs from All Cultures; John Stones; 2009
- National Geographic Magazine; Sean Markey; 2006
- shamrock image by Olga Khoroshunova from Fotolia.com