The history of Saint Patrick’s Day

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The holiday of Leprechauns, clovers, luck, and beer has a very interesting history. Saint Patrick’s Day originated in Ireland and was previously used as a religious service and feast to honour Saint Patrick.

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Who is Saint Patrick?

Saint Patrick was a patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Roman Britain during the late 4th century. At the age of 16, he was taken to Ireland as a slave however he did eventually escape slavery. He returned to Ireland around 432 CE intending to convert the Irish to Christianity. He died on March 17, 461 after a lifetime of work establishing monasteries, churches, and schools devoted to Christianity.

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The Legends of Saint Patrick

Like many figures in history, Saint Patrick developed quite a few legends surrounding him. Many believed that he was the one to drive the snakes out of Ireland and that he used the shamrock to teach about the Trinity. As a result, Ireland used March 17th as a day to celebrate him with feasts and other religious services.

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Expansion of Saint Patrick’s Day

Emigrants transformed St. Patrick’s Day from a religious holiday into a more secularized celebration for all things Irish. It was cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants who staged extensive and elaborate celebrations with their political powers, which often-meant parades. Boston first held a Saint Patrick’s Day parade in 1737 and was later adopted by New York City in 1762. Another grand example of celebration occurs in Chicago annually as they colour their river green to mark Saint Patrick’s Day since 1962.

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Where does the Leprechaun come from then?

Leprechauns are creatures found in Irish folklore or Celtic beliefs. The name ‘leprechauns’ originated from the word, ‘lobaircin’ meaning “small, bodied fellow.” They are considered a fairy in the form of a very little old man sporting a large hat and often symbolize luck. Despite their representation of luck, the legends often detail their crankiness and trickery. Many children are often interested in the idea of trapping a leprechaun for their gold which is said to be found at the end of a rainbow.

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The reason leprechauns are featured greatly on Saint Patrick’s Day is due to their ties back to Irish culture and their addition of mystique to the holiday, as well as to honour Celtic folklore.

Our modern Saint Patrick’s Day is now celebrated with Irish and non-Irish people wearing green clothing, sporting a shamrock lapel, and people drinking plenty of beer or Guinness and eating Irish food such as cabbage or corned beef. The changes in the celebration are a result of immigration, secularization, and commercialization all in the name of celebrating the Irish.

Ashley is a fifth-year student in the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education concurrent program. Now in her final year, she hopes to further studies with the goal of promoting international advocacy for educational rights. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to her vinyl records, watching films, and hiking.