St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would fun to share some things about celebrating this holiday in its country of origin. My family and I lived in Ireland from January 2014 until June 2015. To experience this holiday in the country where it came from was quite a treat!
The first thing you should know is that it should never be called St. Paddy’s Day. It is either St. Patrick’s Day or Paddy’s Day. The former name gives it the distinction of a religious holiday and gives it a little respect. Paddy’s Day refers to the “fun” side of it. If you say St. Paddy’s Day, well, people just know you don’t really know what it is all about.
History of St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland named St. Patrick who lived in the 400’s. Patrick wasn’t born Irish, he was brought to Ireland as a slave after he was kidnapped from Britain. Later, he escaped back to Britain to be with his family. While there, a voice told him to go back to Ireland. He was ordained as a priest and spent the rest of his life working to bring Christianity to Ireland. He made quite an impact on the country as we now celebrate his life on March 17th because that is the day he was said to have died.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). He had a lasting legacy and made Ireland a land of saints and scholars for the next few hundred years.
Some people claim that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. However, science has proven that there never were any snakes in Ireland because of the cold climate and because it is an island. It is thought that the word snakes in this legend actually represents driving out the pagan ways when Christianity was introduced. The Irish are well known for their storytelling. So it is likely that the pagans introduced this legend.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade
While we were living in Dublin, we had a chance to go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was quite impressive and odd at the same time. One of the funniest things was that there were actually a lot of American bands marching in the parade. They had quite a variety of small floats, interesting costumes, and good music. I can’t even describe it. So I will show you some pictures instead!
Green is the color of St. Patrick’s Day because Ireland is very green. There are lots of trees, grass, and other green plants. It is so green because it really does rain a lot. They have a saying there: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Irish legend says that there is a small Irish fairy called the leprechaun. He wears pointed shoes, a hat, and a leather apron. According to the legend, he’s very unfriendly and lives alone in the forest guarding his pots of gold. The story says that if you find a leprechaun, he will have to tell you where his gold is hidden. If you look away for even one second, the leprechaun will disappear along with all his gold.
It’s no surprise that the pinching tradition is entirely American. It probably started in the early 1700s. St. Patrick’s Day revelers thought wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns. Leprechauns were thought to be fairy creatures who would pinch anyone they could see (anyone not wearing green). People began pinching those who didn’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns would sneak up on them and pinch them if they weren’t wearing green.
Chatting With a Friend from Ireland
To investigate this holiday a little more, I decided to interview one of my friends who grew up in Ireland. He said that their holiday was a lot like a typical Sunday where they got up and dressed to go to mass. (Most of the country is Catholic). Everyone had the day off and the extended family would often come over for a celebration feast.
St. Patrick’s Day is typically right in the middle of Lent. During Lent, it is Catholic tradition to give up something. In many cases, for kids, this something is candy. However, on this holiday, they could eat the thing they decided to give up. The children were always very excited about this!
My friend James grew up in Kilkenny, Ireland. He did not travel to Dublin for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Each town had its own parade. He remembers marching in the parade with his scout troop. He has very fond memories of good food, family, and church on this holiday.
He also said that he had never heard of corned-beef & cabbage until he came to the US! He did have bacon & cabbage regularly growing up. (But it was different than American bacon.) He grew up on a farm that kept beef cattle and sheep. So for an occasion like St. Patrick’s Day, he had dinner in the middle of the day. And it was normally a nice cut of roast beef with roast & boiled potatoes and vegetables.
I Loved Living in Ireland
The people are very friendly and they are always willing to help if you are lost or need anything. They drink LOTS of tea and eat LOTS of biscuits. (More like what we would call cookies). It never gets above 70 degrees and it does rain a lot. It’s cold! Everyone loves to play and watch Gaelic football, rugby, and hurling. They say things like, “Thanks a mil” and “tree-tirty” and “done and dusted.” We really enjoyed our time living there. If you ever have a chance to visit (especially during St. Patrick’s Day)–DO IT!
Originally published in March 2019.