Finding a leprechaun and his pot of gold has always been a favorite activity for little kids, and even some adults, on St. Patrick’s Day. But, does anyone know what a leprechaun has to do with the holiday and why American’s celebrate the day of the luck of the Irish?”St. Patty’s Day,” celebrated on March 17, is a modern secular holiday based on the original Christian saint’s, St. Patrick’s, feast day, and the date of his death in the fifth century, according to the History Channel’s Web site. Irish families traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. People celebrate by dancing, drinking and feasting on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and a well-known figure in the Christian religion. However, his life is somewhat of a mystery. The stories told about him, such as his banishing of all the snakes in Ireland, are false.
He had a troublesome childhood, including being taken as a prisoner at age 16 by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. After escaping the imprisonment at 22, a voice spoke to him, which he thought was from God, and told him to escape Ireland.
After walking about 200 miles and ending in Britain, another voice, supposedly of an angel, spoke to St. Patrick and told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Upon his return, he started religious training for more than 15 years. Once he was ordained a priest, he was sent on a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish, according to www.history.com.
Patrick incorporated traditional rituals into his lessons of Christianity instead of “eradicating native Irish beliefs.” For example, since the Irish honor their gods with fire, Patrick used bonfires to celebrate Easter. He also superimposed a sun onto the Christian cross to make what is know known as the Celtic cross.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is a huge celebration for everyone in the United States, even those who do not have any ounce of Irish blood in them. Everything from parades and pot of gold hunting to parties and green-colored foods and drinks encompass the holiday.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was started in the United States in 1762. Irish soldiers, who were serving in the English military, marched the streets of New York. It helped to reconnect them with their Irish roots as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the army. Because of this incident, Irish patriotism flourished within American immigrants.
Today, New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the U.S. with over 150,000 participants. About 3 million people each year line the one-and-a-half mile parade route to watch, which takes around five hours. U.S. cities Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also have parades with approximately 10,000 to 20,000 participants.
A famous St. Patrick’s Day tradition that brings out many onlookers is the dyeing of the Chicago River green. According to the history Web site, this annual event started in 1962 when “city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges,” and they realized that the dye might provide a different way to celebrate the holiday. They released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river, which was enough to keep the river emerald for a week.
Many search for four-leaf clovers in grassy fields because it is supposedly a good luck charm. But, what people end up finding are three-leaf shamrocks. The shamrock is a sacred plant in Ireland as it represents the “rebirth of spring.” Lots of Irish citizens would wear the shamrock as a symbol of their Irish pride. The shamrock became a sign of emerging Irish nationalism.
While parades and shamrocks represents St. Patrick’s Day, who could forget those pesky leprechauns always up to stealing pots of gold?
According to the Web site, leprechauns have been believed by Celtics within their beliefs of fairies, “tiny men and women who could use their magical powers for good or evil.” Celtic folktales say that leprechauns are believed to be “cranky souls” who mend the shoes of other fairies. They were known to perform trickery on others in order to protect their treasures.
However, the leprechaun was not introduced as a representation for St. Patrick’s Day by the Irish. The tiny man was made a figure by Americans after a 1959 Walt Disney film, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” showed a happy-go-lucky leprechaun. This now serves as a familiar figure associated with St. Patrick’s Day.
Show Irish pride, even if there isn’t an ounce of Irish blood in your body this St. Patrick’s Day. To find different ways of celebrating visit www.history.com.
Or, if you want to make green-colored foods and drinks, check out the Food Network Web site for yummy treats at www.foodnetwork.com.
Amanda Tingle is a third-year student majoring in secondary English education with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AT610629@wcupa.edu.