Saint Patrick’s Day: Irish History and Modern CultureBy
Most of us know St. Patty’s Day as the modern secular celebration of Irish heritage involving good beer, good food, and of course, the color green. But did you know that this, one of the funnest holidays of the year, was originally based on something else?
Saint Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and originally the March 17th feast held in his honor was a religious celebration to commemorate the deed. By the tenth century, St. Patrick’s feast was being celebrated by the Irish in many parts of Europe, by 1903 it had been declared an official public Holiday in Ireland, and by the mid 1990’s a coalition had been started to turn this joyful celebration into a means of showcasing Irish culture and educating on Irish heritage. In point of fact, the original color associated with Saint Patrick’s Day was blue, with green gradually replacing it as the signature color due to the meaning of green clover or “shamrocks,” the plant which it is claimed Saint Patrick used to explain the significance of the Christian trinity to the Irish pagans in the fifth century.
Today’s celebrations have certainly evolved, as in modern times St. Patrick has become recognized more so as the patron saint of Irish heritage, and the four leaf clover representing luck and prosperity has replaced the three leaf clover in much of the holiday paraphernalia. The concepts of Irish luck, togetherness with friends and loved ones, and even romance have slowly replaced the original Christian sentiments assigned to the holiday in secular culture, and now large carnivals, feasts, and parades are held to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Irish Catholics still celebrate in much the same fashion, sometimes including church services and other religious festivities along with the traditional breaking of lent to allow alcohol consumption.
In recent years, the pierced and tattooed youth subculture has begun a trend towards advertising their Irish heritage in a more unique way, through the use of colorful body art that integrates traditional Irish or Irish Catholic elements. The use of jewelry incorporating the shamrock or four leaf clover is also quite popular, along with all manner of t-shirts and accessories bearing appropriately kitschy phrasing such as, “kiss me, I’m Irish.”
As for modern observance of Saint Patrick’s Day, whether Irish or not, no matter what you wear, it promises with each passing year to be, “the best St. Patty’s Day ever.” And that, in our book, is definitely something cool enough to celebrate.