When is St. Patrick′s Day 2015? Today! Yes, a Happy St. Patrick′s Day to all of the Irish, including us part-time Irish. So while you attend parades and drink gallons of green beer, let us review some myths, facts and history of St. Patrick′s Day. You never know, perhaps a leprechaun will leave you a pot of gold? Or at least a plane ticket to Ireland. As you will learn, many of the traditions surrounding this holiday actually started in America, not in Ireland. In fact, for the real Irish, this was generally a minor religious holiday until the 1970s. By the late 1990s, the Emerald Isle adopted our passion for the day mostly to appease, and cash in, on American tourists.
The holiday was started to celebrate the death of St. Patrick who died on March 17, 461 A.D.. Good Irish Catholics were to attend church, pray and then spend the day resting. As it falls within the season of Lent, the practice began of taking a day off of Lenten sacrifice and enjoying a festive meal along with singing and dancing. One of the common myths dealing with St. Patrick′s Day is the wearing of the green. Originally, the official color of the Order of St. Patrick was blue. The practice of pinching someone who is not wearing green started in America, as many of St. Patrick′s Day traditions have. The pinch was intended to make you noticeable to the leprechauns. The first St. Patrick′s Day parade was held in New York City in 1766.
Perhaps the biggest myth about St. Patrick himself is that he was not Irish! No, he was a Brit. According to the legends, he was captured as a teenager around 406 A.D. and taken to Ireland as a slave. He eventually escaped and returned to Britain, but later went back to Ireland and converted the Irish to Christianity after hearing voices from God. The whole shamrock-thing started because St. Patrick used it to demonstrate the Holy Trinity, with the three-leaf plant representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Another major St. Patrick′s Day myth is about him getting rid of all of the snakes in Ireland. The fact is that there never were any snakes there in the first place. Here, again, we take a religious spin, as snakes are often a sign of Satan, or at least, of evil. By converting the Celts to Christianity, St. Patrick turned them away from their ancient, pagan ways.
Now for a few fun facts about St. Patrick′s Day. To begin with, the first parade held in NYC involved a troop of Irish soldiers who had fought for the British in North America during the French and Indian Wars, which was our chapter in a larger, global conflict known as the Seven Years War. While most of that war was fought in Europe, a number of battles were fought elsewhere, not only in America, but even in Asia as well. The idea of wearing green began in the early 19th Century and was promoted by the Hibernian Society, which was organized to assist Irish immigrants in America. By the mid-19th Century, the holiday was celebrated in a number of American cities, from Boston to Savannah and Chicago.
Speaking of Chicago, the Chicago River was first dyed green in 1962, and it was by accident. The dye was typically used by plumbers to find leaks. Other cities soon followed in dying rivers and fountains green on St. Patrick′s Day. Dying beer green started in Miami University in Ohio back in 1952. It figures that some college town would do that. Speaking of beer, the folks at Guinness love St. Patrick′s Day, as the sale of their stout beer more than doubles, from about 5.5 million pints daily to over 13 million pints.
So drink up my Irish friends and celebrate a Happy St. Patrick′s Day 2015. Today, you don′t have to be Irish to enjoy the fun. There is plenty of blarney, and green beer to go around. Me, I’ll be watching “The Quiet Man”, “The Long Grey Line” and “The Rising of the Moon”, my favorite movies about the Irish.