St. Patrick brought Christianity to the tribes of Ireland who had originally worshiped Celtic polytheism. His full name was Maewyn Succat and he was born in England. As a teenager Succat was kidnapped and made a slave by the Irish pirates. For six years he tended sheep and obeyed his master, who was also the high priest of one of the pagan religions.
Succat believed his enslavement was God testing his faith, so every day he prayed and devoted himself to Christianity. He had visions of freeing Ireland from their pagan influence. Eager to see those visions become reality, he managed to convince sailors to allow him to stowaway on their ship. Once he arrived back to England a free man, he studied Catholicism and then entered the priesthood taking the name Patrick.
Years later, St. Patrick returned to Ireland to preach the word of God. In his teaching, St. Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, which represents the three parts (father, son and Holy Spirit) of the Catholic religion. The anniversary of his death, March 17, is when the holiday is celebrated.
The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1762 when Irish soldiers, serving in the English military during the American Revolution, honored their roots by marching to music throughout New York City. To this day, NYC is said to hold the largest parade in the United States commemorating Irish culture with colorful floats, dancing, traditional foods and a lot of green memorabilia.
Everything is Green!
Blue was originally the color associated with the holiday, but it slowly shifted in the 17th century to green because it is one of the colors in the Irish flag and has been used by revolutionary groups as a symbol of their rebellion. In addition, Ireland is aptly named the “Emerald Isle,” because of all of its plush green land. There is also a legend that wearing the color green on St. Patrick’s Day makes you invisible to leprechauns who will pinch you if they can see you.
Luck of the Irish
During the festivities some revelers may wear pins or shirts that say I’ve got “the luck of the Irish,” but what does this phrase mean? Its origins are highly debated mainly because Ireland has historically undergone years of strife, famine and overall bad luck. It has often been attributed as an ironic phrase because of Ireland’s unlucky past.
Some historians say that the term is actually meant to be a backhanded remark for successful Irish miners during the 1848 California gold rush. Many poor Irish immigrants and Irish Americans voyaged across the United States in search of fortune, and if they found gold Americans would attribute it as sheer luck. Hence the term “luck of the Irish.”
However, for celebrants, the expression is often said to family and friends to represent good health, luck and best wishes.