“Ireland ’til the end of time!”, or as you may know it, Éire go Brách! This common phrase is near and dear to those whose lineage can be traced back to the Emerald Isle, and is especially used on St. Patrick’s Day. The history of St. Patrick and his celebrations in the United States began in New York City, due to the rush of immigrants in the popular port, but where did the celebration actually start as we know it?
Did the Irish really pinch each other if they weren’t wearing green? What’s up with the leprechauns? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the History of St. Patrick and the celebrations that are attributed to him.
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The History of St. Patrick – He Wasn’t Irish!
Not only was Saint Patrick from Great Britain, but his name also wasn’t even Patrick. Maewyn Succat was born early in the 4th Century to wealthy parents but was taken captive by Irish raiders at the age of 16. He was taken to Ireland and forced into slavery, where he served for 6 years. During this lonely and terrifying captivity, he turned to Christianity for solace, and it was during this time that he began to dream of converting the Irish people from Paganism to Christianity. This is where the history of St. Patrick, as well as the green beer and corned beef celebrations, have their start.
March 17 Is The Day That Saint Patrick Died
Yes, when you and your friends dress in green and head to the local pub on March 17, you’re celebrating the day that he died. After working and serving the Irish people for more than 30 years, St. Patrick passed away on March 17 around 460 AD.
St. Patrick was known for many things, including chasing the snakes out of Ireland and raising people from the dead, but since we have no proof of these things, we can only determine that the history of St. Patrick and the accompanying celebrations honors a man who experienced a conversion and dedicated his life to serving a country other than his own. This selflessness is a quality that is worth celebrating!
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The History of St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrations In Ireland
The history of St. Patrick’s day celebrations come from Ireland, but these celebrations weren’t the boozy, green-beer extravaganza as we know them as today. St. Patrick is a Catholic Saint, and his day was recognized the way Saints typically are: in Church.
Families gathered together to pray and attend Mass, and even the pubs were closed on March 17! Families would eat beautiful meals, often a leg of lamb, a shepherd’s pie, or even fresh or smoked salmon. Of course, the one staple the Irish are known for, the potato is frequently served on the side of any main course. This is one stereotype that’s actually true.
The History of St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrations In The United States
In the mid-18th century, the Irish settlers were escaping tyranny and starvation in their homeland and coming to the United States to seek out a better life. Their Catholic lifestyle was not greeted with open arms by our Protestant-American forefathers, so being Irish during the younger years of our nation was not an easy thing to be. During the 1760s, there were Irishmen serving in the British military, and members of the British Army held the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City.
During the 19th century, the number of Irish settlers grew exponentially, and these Catholic foreigners were met by unwavering Protestant pride and stubbornness. In order to show their strength and heritage (in numbers, no doubt), the Irish settlers held a parade on March 17 that grew in popularity and numbers each year. The history of St. Patrick and his holiday may have had a sacred start, but over the next couple of millennia, it garnered a secular following.
The “Green” Is All About Belonging
Growing up, you may have been subjected to pinching if you were found not wearing the signature color of this holiday. Legend says that you wear green and you become invisible to leprechauns, and leprechauns like to pinch people. So, if you’re not invisible, you’re going to get pinched. That seems logical enough, but the real historical reason for wearing green goes deeper than an unwelcomed pinch.
When the Irish settled in the United States and were struggling to find their welcome in the United States, their sense of nationalism soared. People need to feel like they belong, and if they counted on Americans for that feeling, it wasn’t going to happen. The Irish began to wear the color green to show solidarity with each other, and before long, there was more and more green in the seas of people in the cities of the United States of America. In fact, after Germany, the United States boasts the most people with Irish Heritage, so to be safe, wear some green this March and keep yourself pinch-free.
Regardless of your religious beliefs or heritage, the history of St. Patrick has become fun, and it’s a fun holiday to celebrate. It’s the one day a year you can eat food you normally wouldn’t eat and drink beer that isn’t usually green. There is something about this holiday that unites all of us together in a bond of Irish brotherhood, so raise a glass and cheers to goodwill and good times. Sláinte!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on the Cutest St. Patrick’s Day Outfits For Kids.