For more than 1,000 years, people have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. But does anyone really know why? There is certainly more to this holiday than green beer and corned beef and cabbage. For instance, Saint Patrick was the Patron Saint of Ireland, known for bringing Christianity to the country. We celebrate on March 17th because it is believed to be the day that Saint Patrick died. As for the other legends, you’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Who is Saint Patrick?
Believe it or not, Saint Patrick was born in Britain during the fourth century. At the age of 16, he was taken from his home by Irish raiders. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. Alone and afraid, Patrick turned to his religion for solace. Legend has it that God spoke to Patrick in a dream, telling him to flea Ireland. He walked 200 miles to the Irish coast and finally returned to Britain. It was believed that Patrick dreamed of converting the Irish people to Christianity. After becoming a priest, Patrick returned to Ireland to practice his religion.
The color green
The color green is symbolic of the Shamrock and the landscape of Ireland. While Saint Patrick wore blue, ancient folklores said he used the Shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity to Irish patrons. It was also said that the people of Ireland wore Shamrocks on their coats and placed them in a glass of whiskey before drinking at the end of a long day.
St. Patrick’s Day food
Corned beef and cabbage is actually an Irish American tradition. During the 19th century, poor immigrants were unable to afford their favorite cuts of pork. They went in search of a cheap alternative and found corned beef in the delis and lunch carts of their Jewish neighbors. They slow cooked it in cabbage and made the delicious St. Paddy’s Day meal we know and love today.
Leprechauns and gold
The belief of leprechauns was first mentioned during the 8th century. The term “leprechaun” actually comes from the Irish word meaning “small-bodied fellow.” According to history, Celtic folktales told stories of tiny men and women with magical powers who were said to make shoes and store their coins in a hidden pot of gold. Hence, Leprechauns had no correlation with Saint Patrick.
St. Patrick’s Day is a relatively minor holiday in Ireland – However, it’s a day of celebration and tradition here in the United States! How will you be celebrating today?
Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.