Hailing from the early 1700s, Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Saint Patrick’s Day) is celebrated nationally on March 17 with a large feast. That great feast marks the anniversary of the death of a patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. It is believed that Saint Patrick was born in the fourth century in Roman Britain.
In Irish history, there is the Declaration, which was supposedly written by the saint himself. In it, Patrick claims he spent many years recruiting the northern half of Ireland, converting thousands to Christianity. The Day of The Festival of Patrick, or Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrates the anniversary of Christianity being introduced to Ireland, as well as celebrating the Irish heritage and culture in general. Lent limits on drinking alcohol are lifted for the day as well.
St. Patrick’s Day has offered strange myths, from leprechauns to an omen of death called the Banshee.
The Banshee is the spirit of a woman in a torn up gray cloak. Some saw the Banshee as an old woman dressed in rags, as a young and beautiful girl, other times saw her as a wash woman, ringing out bloody clothing. Whenever she was seen, she let out a horrible cry. Irish legends say that this cry brought death to any family that heard it.
Traditionally, leprechauns are tall fairies that appear to humans as an old man, unlike the modern view of a small, baby-faced fairy in a green suit. As legend holds, leprechauns covet gold, which they gather in a pot and hide at the end of a rainbow. But, if a human catches a leprechaun, it must grant the human three wishes before he can be released.
Modern day Saint Patrick’s Day has nothing to do with the real St. Patrick, instead, it includes various alcohols and people dressed in green. St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover to explain the religious holy trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Before green came to the Ireland scene, blue was actually the original color of the Saint. It was commonly used on the flags and coats of arms of Ireland. Green came into the picture as a symbol of the ‘Emerald Isle,’ the poetic name for Ireland and how green it’s countrysides are.
“As far as St. Patrick's Day, I don’t know of any other nationality that has a feast day that’s celebrated by everybody, Irish or otherwise. Unfortunately, in my perspective, they’ve made it a big celebration for bars and restaurants and people don’t have any knowledge of it. They just make a big drinking day out of it,” Ron Strzelecki, the bands coordinator of the Irish-American Club of Kalamazoo, said.
In Ireland, the celebration was actually dry 50 years ago. It only came back into media after the country realized it could boost springtime tourism. The parades and dressing up began in America. In the early years of the United States, Irish Americans who wanted to celebrate their identities started with banquets at elite clubs in big American cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in 1762, and by the 19th century, it was a common celebration for the country.
Regarding descendants, there are currently more Irish people living in America than in Ireland. This partially has to do with the potato famine in 1845 and 1852, which left millions of Irish to desert their country and come to the United States. The population of Ireland is roughly above four million, but in America, there are almost 35 million people with Irish ancestry.