“A long time ago, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and into every nightclub in North America.” That joke, recently found on a greeting card, holds some truth. While some recognize this holiday as a reason to go out and drink green liquids, the history of St. Patrick’s Day is quickly forgotten. Saint Patrick began his journey as a captive in Ireland. There, he escaped after God spoke to him in a dream, but later returned as a bishop and used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish people. Since shamrocks are green, the color became associated with St. Patrick’s Day.
Saint Patrick is also attributed to a pagan legend with snakes. It is said that he scared them off of the island; however, it being given the name “legend”, people know that it’s discredited.
The Irish began celebrating this holiday long ago with tenacity, spending it as a one-day break during Lent. They took advantage of this day by feasting and drinking alcohol, a tradition, which continues to this day.
Since 1996, the Irish government took it upon themselves to begin a three-day festival in celebration. In 2009, the festival lasted five days. This festival consists of a celebration of the Irish culture with performances, concerts and fireworks. Thousands of people during this festival travel to Ireland to rejoice in Irish culture.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has long since spread internationally, and places like Argentina, Canada, Great Britain, Montserrat, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States began their own traditions based off of the Irish ones. The common tradition in all these areas is to wear green and drink alcohol until the wee hours of the morning.
Much of the early celebrations in the United States involved the Irish immigrant workers protesting since they felt they were being treated unfairly. Since that time in the 1700s, the Irish patriotism grew and the celebrations in the United States became more popular.
Since green is the signature color to wear on this holiday, a custom is to pinch those who don’t wear green. On St. Patrick’s Day, so many places decorate in green. Chicago even goes as far to dye its river green using pounds of vegetable dye, a custom that began in 1962 with the sewer workers. Last year, even the White House joined in on the festivities by dying its fountain green. Many cities around the world also hold parades to celebrate the day. Even sports take part of the celebrations. Some baseball and basketball teams will wear special green uniforms in honor of the holiday.
Some Catholics throughout the world are offended at how people ignore the religious aspect of St. Patrick’s Day. Jessica Richard, a junior at West Chester University, said, “It’s just like every other holiday that was originally a religious celebration and has been commercialized, but I still believe it’s fun to celebrate.”
Kelly Adams, a sophomore, said, “I don’t think most people realize that St. Patrick’s Day was originally a Christian holiday to celebrate the life of a saint. Most people only associate it with Irish heritage and drinking beer.”
An anonymous student believes that, “St. Patty’s day epitomizes America’s culture today. A culture that focuses on immediate pleasure.” Whatever the opinion, it’s clear that people have their own reason to celebrate or not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and they all do it in their own different ways.
St. Patrick’s day encompasses all types of traditions, customs, and history. It impacts the world internationally although it started on a small island with one man.
Jessica Martini is a second-year student majoring in English secondary education. She can be reached at JM685221@wcupa.edu.