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When Is St. Patrick’s Day Celebrated?
Saint Patrick’s Day occurs on the same date every year: March 17. That much we know for sure. And though saying the name of the holiday out loud may instantly conjure thoughts of shamrocks, leprechauns, and green beer, there is a much deeper cultural significance to this traditional Irish event.
What Is St. Patrick’s Day?
Though we all have our own experiences with the holiday, this is a very relevant question. And since its annual celebration is due any day now, we thought we could look at the significance of St. Patrick’s Day, from a historical standpoint. Maybe then we can determine why the occasion is recognized – heartily so in many cases – by millions of people around the world, regardless of Irish heritage. We start by looking at the holiday’s namesake.
Who Was St. Patrick?
There are actually quite a few debates about the details of his life. But according to numerous historical documents, here are a few agreed-upon facts:
– He was born in the fifth century in Roman Britain (present day Great Britain).
– He was captured by pirates at the age of 16 and lived as a slave in Ireland for 6 years.
– He spent most of his adult life serving as a Christian missionary to Ireland.
– He is the subject of much lore and legend, including accounts of miracles he supposedly performed, like the removal of all the snakes from Ireland.
– He was never officially canonized by the Catholic church but is often referred to as the Patron Saint of Ireland.
– He died on March 17, 461 A.D.
What Is the Origin of St. Patrick’s Day?
So, you might have a pretty good idea from that last somber fact as to how we came to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. But there is still the worthwhile question of why this is still a tradition over 1,500 years later. Just how did a very popular, wildly-celebrate holiday originate from this man and his story?
Because of the significant contributions, Saint Patrick made to the Christian faith, the anniversary of his death was dedicated as a feast day by the church in the early 17th century. So, it makes sense that the first known celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day were strictly religious ones. However, over time St. Patrick’s Day evolved into something much more inclusive.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, around the early 1800s, many immigrants of Irish descent, particularly in the United States, began to recognize the holiday as a more secular celebration of pride, heritage and all things Irish, including much revelry. These traditions are certainly in line with the ones we see today. From parades, marathons, and pub crawls to corned beef and cabbage, wearing green and even dying the river green (like they’ve done in Chicago since 1962), there are many traditions and rituals associated with March 17, but few that seem to reflect the actual story of Saint Patrick.
Why Do We Wear Green on St. Patrick’s Day?
The primary reason everyone dons their greens on March 17 is that it is the color most associated with Ireland. In fact, it’s a part of their name: the Emerald Isle.
Thank you so much for reading! We hope our look at Saint Patrick’s Day was both informative and entertaining. As a reflection of the day, we wanted to remind you that The Bradford Exchange offers some unique expressions of Irish heritage and Celtic symbolism to get you in the mood for March 17. But whatever you do, don’t forget to wear green. Nobody likes to get pinched!St. Patrick's Day 101: A Brief Primer by The Bradford Exchange