Éire go Brách! In what has become an important American holiday.
But what is there to St. Patrick’s Day besides drinking Guinness and pinching our friends for not wearing green?
Let’s take a look at history!
- Who is St. Patrick? He is the patron saint of Ireland, although it is not his homeland. Baptized Maewyn Succat, he was born in Roman Britain between 385 and 392 C.E. into a Christian family. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in northern Ireland. He remained in slavery until he escaped several years later. After becoming ordained in the Catholic church, he returned to Ireland as a missionary. St. Patrick’s Day, or Feast of St. Patrick, falls on March 17, the day of his death in 461 C.E.
- What’s the significance of the shamrock? The shamrock, or three-leafed clover, was called the “seamroy” by the Irish Celts and was considered a sacred plant that symbolized the arrival of spring. St. Patrick famously used the shamrock to explain the mysteries of the holy trinity while converting the Irish people. By the 17th century, the plant was used as a symbol of Irish nationalism.
- Snakes in Ireland? Besides looking good in green (and blue), St. Patrick is also known for having “banned the snakes” from the Emerald Isle, forcing all the slithering creatures to retreat into the sea. Pretty cool, right? Well, research suggests snakes never actually occupied Ireland in the first place. There are no signs of snakes in the country’s fossil record, and water has surrounded Ireland since the last glacial period. Before that, the region was covered in ice and would have been too cold for the reptiles to live. So if it wasn’t snakes, what did St. Patrick actually run out of Ireland? Scholars suggest that the myth is allegorical since a serpent is considered a symbol of evil in the Judeo-Christian tradition. By converting the masses from paganism to Catholicism, he was seen has having run the proverbial snakes out of Ireland.
- First St. Patrick’s Day parades were held in America: The Irish have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day since the 1600s, but the tradition of a St. Patrick’s Day parade began in America, going as far back as the 17th century. Historic records indicate that one of the earliest St. Patrick’s Day parades in America took place in St. Augustine, FL in 1601; six years before the founding of Jamestown. In 1737, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in Boston. The tradition of the St. Patty’s Day parade only grew from there and continues to be an annual tradition in major cities across the U.S.
- Corned beef and cabbage is also American. Sorry, Ireland, but this dish has its roots in American soil. While ham and cabbage were eaten in Ireland, corned beef offered a cheaper substitute for Irish-American immigrants living in the slums of lower Manhattan. They would purchase leftover corned beef from ships returning from the tea trade in China. They would then boil the beef three times, with the last time including cabbage to remove some of the brine. And, voila, a dish that has become the staple of St. Patrick’s Day cuisine was born.
Sláinte, neighbors! May the luck of the Irish stay with you!
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