Whether you’re Irish or not, there’s a temptation to take part in celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day – a beloved tradition worldwide that sees thousands of people coming together to drink, dress in green, eat traditional food from Ireland and generally celebrate Irish heritage.
What is Saint Patrick’s Day, and where does it come from?
Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a celebration in honour of the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick.
The day of celebration, which marks the day of Saint Patrick’s death, was originally a religious holiday meant to celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and made official by the Catholic Church in the early 17th century.
Observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church, the day was typically observed with services and feasts.
Consumption has always been an integral part of Saint Patrick’s Day, as historically the day was celebrated with a day-long lift of the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol.
Interestingly, Saint Patrick wasn’t actually Irish. He is believed to have been born in either Scotland or Wales and sold into slavery in Ireland as a child.
In 1903, Saint Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland.
This year, and every year, it is celebrated on 17 March. St Patrick’s Day 2019 falls on a Sunday.
What are shamrocks and leprechauns and why are they depicted in the celebrations?
Although Saint Patrick’s Day has mostly evolved into a cultural celebration of Irish heritage, certain traditions such as wearing green and shamrocks have prevailed.
We wear green to celebrate because green is the colour associated with Catholics in Ireland.
However, green wasn’t associated with the holiday until the 19th century. Prior to that, blue was often worn to celebrate.
Shamrocks – clover-like plants with three leaves – were, according to legend, used by Saint Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish.
Leprechauns, a mythical type of fairy in Irish folklore, also make an appearance during Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Often depicted as little men, leprechauns are usually pictured with a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
They are mischievous fairies known for playing jokes on people. But legend has it, if you catch one he will give you three wishes.
The holiday has evolved into a mostly cultural celebration of Irish heritage marked with a day of green clothing and Irish-themed parades.
In the United States, Irish American people usually indulge in corned beef and cabbage.
But in Ireland and elsewhere in celebration of the holiday, typical Irish foods such as steak and Guinness pie or Irish soda bread are eaten.