St. Patrick’s Day Explained
In the US, over 33.1 million people claim Irish Heritage, but nearly 127 million Americans become Irish overnight on St. Patrick’s Day. What is it about March 17th that makes everyone want to celebrate St. Patrick? Who was he? Why do they turn the Charles River green in his name? We answer your questions below.
St. Patrick: The Backstory
Believe it or not, St. Patrick (real name: Maewyn Succat) was not actually Irish. He was born a nobleman in AD 387, in Scotland- and was eventually captured by Irish pirates around age 16. During this time, he became accustomed to many Irish customs and rituals.
It is said that Patrick had a couple dreams that would shape his influence in the years to come. In one, God told him his “ship was ready” (he returned home by ship shortly thereafter). In another, he was told he was the “voice of the Irish” – and then heard the voices of those he left in Ireland begging for him to return.
After these events, history tells us that St. Patrick did return to Ireland with a mission to spread Christianity. Despite the dangers, he persisted and was able to build a solid foundation- coming across many people who over receptive to his teachings. After 3o years of work, it is said he converted over 135,000 people, established 300 churches, and consecrated 350 bishops. March 17th, AD 461 was believed to be his day of death and has been celebrated by the Irish ever since.
82% of people who participate in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations do so by wearing the color green, but why? Apparently, once upon a time the color for St. Patrick was blue- but as Ireland became known as the “Emerald Isle”, things changed.
The reality is green has become the color for a multitude of reasons. Irish folklore features Leprechauns, little tricksters who would wear green outfits as to blend in with their surroundings. While the stories of leprechauns have evolved over time, the general idea is they were jerks going around pinching people who did not sport their color.
One of the more simple explanations for the emphasis on green is tied to Shamrocks. St. Patrick actually used them in his teachings as a symbol for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Obviously they are green, and they represent Spring. It just works!
Also, if you look at the Irish flag, you will notice the green and orange stripes are separated by a white one. This is actually very symbolic for the religious peace the country experienced. Irish Catholics celebrate St. Patrick by wearing green, Protestants with Orange.
Popular St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
Every year, the Chicago River is dyed green by the Rowan and Butler family. They’ve been doing it for years!
29% of people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day do so by going to a bar or restaurant to partake in festive drinking. The most popular beverages for the occasion are Guinness Beer and Irish Whiskey. People will drink 3 million pints of Guinness beer for the celebration, vs. 600,000 any given day of the year.
New York City hosted the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762. Ever since, parades have become an opportunity for the Irish to flaunt their colors, numbers and overall strength. You will find parades in nearly every state in America.
It’s a little funny, but people tend to enjoy a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef, boiled potatoes and carrots. Oddly enough, the actual meal the Irish would have had wouldn’t have included corned beef, but Irish bacon. Regardless, the dinner is a symbol of solidarity with all St. Patrick did for his people.
We have some fun and festive products to help you enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day!