Heritage and Culture

St Patrick's Day

St Patrick's Day
By Sophie

On the 17th of March, the Irish and Irish-at-heart will don green attire, and shamrocks, and take to the pubs and bars to celebrate St Patrick's Day! From formal banquets and gatherings to street parades and pub trips, everyone celebrates this famous day differently. The concept, however, remains the same - to have fun and celebrate everything Irish!

Although St Patrick's Day celebrations are of worldwide proportions, the original reason for this celebratory day is of much more humble descent.

Who was St Patrick?

St Patrick was a Christian missionary and bishop, who traveled to Ireland from Roman Britain in the 5th Century. A declaration, written by Patrick himself, tells us much of what we need to know about him. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain, in the 4rth Century, to a wealthy family. His father and grandfather were religious figures and Patrick followed in their footsteps. At the age of 16, Irish raiders broke into his home and kidnapped Patrick, taking him to Gaelic Ireland as a slave. For the next six years, Patrick worked on the land as a shepherd. It was during this time that he is believed to have 'found God'. God told Patrick to flee the Irish coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him back home. After following this advice, he returned home and went on to become a priest.

Legend has it that Patrick later returned to Ireland to convert the local Pagan communities to Christianity. He is said so have spent a considerable number of years evangelising in the northern parts of Ireland, converting thousands of people. His efforts against the Druids (members of a high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures) eventually turned into a well known allegory, in which he drove 'snakes' out of Ireland - Ireland never had any snakes.

It is believed that he died on the 17th March and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland's foremost saint.

Today's Celebrations

Although the celebration of Ireland's saint began in Ireland, today's celebrations have spread across the world, being of notable proportions in North America. In Ireland, more effort is made to speak the National Irish language, Gaelic, in the week leading up to St Patrick's Day which is 'Irish Language Week'.

As St Patrick's Day falls around the same time as the Christian Lent, for one day the Lenten restrictions are lifted and Christians are allowed to enjoy the festivities with feasts and alcohol. This has given cause for alcohol to become a large focus within St Patrick's Day celebrations. 'Drowning the Shamrock' is a popular game in which a shamrock is placed in a drinker's glass. The glass is then filled with beer, whisky or cider and is then drank in a toast to St Patrick. The shamrock is either swallowed down with the drink, or taken out at the end of the toast and thrown over the drinker's shoulder for good luck.

Why we wear green

On St Patrick's Day, it is customary to dress in green and/or wear shamrocks. The significance of the Shamrock comes from St Patrick's use of one to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish Pagans. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick's Day since, at least, the 1680s.

Since the 1640s, the colour green has been associated with St Patrick's Day, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. An Irish fraternity, The Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, adopted green as their colour in the 1750s and the colour seems to have stuck as a tradtion since then.

However you're celebrating St Patrick's Day this year, we hope you get your green attire on and celebrate in true St Patrick's Day style!

Why not check out our Irish products for some St Patrick's Day inspiration