Elena Lederman

Staff Reporter

17 March 2023

On March 17th, there are parades, parties and festivals held celebrating Saint Patrick, people dress up in green, and go out and party, but where did the tradition come from? 

Maewyn Succat was born around the year 387 A.D in Britain under Roman rule, he later changed his name to Saint Patrick or Patricius, meaning ‘father figure’. He was born in a villa named Calpurnius and later spent six years working as an enslaved herdsman in Ireland, according to Brittanica. He escaped back to Britain at the age of 22.  Later in life, he shared a dream in his work titled Confessio which translates to ‘confession’ in English.  In the dream, Victoricus, a Christian martyr, delivered him a letter titled, “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read the letter, he heard the voices of the Irish begging for him to “walk with them once more’. This inspired him to return to Ireland. He gave gifts to the people of Ireland, but never accepted any from them. At least once, he was imprisoned. He lived in danger of martyrdom, as there were many non-christian Irishmen who opposed his beliefs. Despite various hardships, he spread Christianity to many people. 

There are several legends surrounding Saint Patrick, one legend shares a story of Patrick driving the snakes of Ireland to the sea, leading to their death. He was said to have raised 33 people from the dead, according to a hagiography written in the 1100’s. Likely the most popular legend, is the legend of the shamrock. In the legend, Patrick shares the connection between the Shamrock and the Holy Trinity in Christianity. As such, people often wear shamrocks in celebration of Saint Patricks Day. 

The first recorded celebration of St. Patrick or Saint Patricks Day, was in St. Augustine, Florida in the year 1600, the following year, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade happened, also in the city of St Augustine. There was a feast tradition in Ireland but it was not given a title until Irish immigrantscelebrated it in America. The feast and holiday are celebrations of his life, which occur on the day of his death, on March 17. The celebration encouraged Irish patriotism. It led to societies being formed, known as ‘Irish Aid’ societies, such as, the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. The groups would hold celebrations every year, andinclude bagpipe performances in the annual parades. Several New York based societies came together to combine their parades, which led to the official New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. It is now one of the largest and oldest parades in the United States, with over 150,000 people participating. People line the roads in green, orange, white and leprechaun costumes. 

The leprechaun is associated with rainbows, Ireland, shamrocks, gold, and luck. The green is a symbol of Irish nationalism. The orange represents the Orange Society, Irish Protestant and political society, named for the Protestant William of Orange. The white represents peace. Orange, green and white are the colors of the Irish flag. The legend of leprechauns does not have a direct connection to St. Patrick but as the legend is Irish, the image of a leprechaun is often associated with the holiday. Leprechauns get their name from the word, ‘luchorpán’ meaning ‘small body’. Leprechauns are written to be small entities that take the form of old men. The leprechaun is thought of as a tricky, cryptic being. Their financial means allow them to manipulate and entice humans. If you catch a leprechaun, he gives you three wishes in exchange for their freedom, according to legend. 

Since green is associated with St. Patrick, a lot of people include green in their celebration meals. The green varies from the green in the cabbage with their corned beef, to dying their potatoes red for their shepards pie. “My family dyes a lot of our food green for the holiday”, said Vy Hyunh, a freshman at Atholton. Though green is a common theme with the holiday, there are traditional foods, such as Irish Stew and Irish Soda Bread. 

Saint Patrick’s Day is not celebrated as it was originally, but it still holds a lot of importance throughout the countries where it is celebrated. The holiday is something that brings people happiness, the parades and parties surrounding the holiday are fun and exit Phoenix Garancheski is a freshman at Atholton, said, “it’s important because it highlights Irish culture and shows appreciation for the Irish people that came here.” 

Posted by Elena Lederman

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