The world today has so many dates that have been set for celebration for one thing or the other to the extent that almost all the dates of the year have been allocated for a certain cause.
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All days that are celebrated in the world are celebrated on a specific date of the year. They follow specific date cycles on which certain events happened thus setting precedence for people to remember and celebrate the date. The remembrances of these days are meant to honor specific acts that happened then because of the significance that the people celebrating the days attach to those acts.
Some people or countries celebrate and or remember some days to appease supernatural forces. In fact, some communities who believe that failure to do so would lead to calamities befalling them due to the anger of the supernatural for not being honored in a certain way (Brady, 2001, p. 157).
Most of the days that are celebrated have their have their origins in the ancient days when religion was pagan, or in early days when religions like Christianity were not widespread as it is today. In the present world, most of these days are mostly remembered as a way of celebrating the heritage of these communities’ tradition and not as a prerequisite for the original reason for celebrating these days.
This paper intends to find out the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, which is being celebrated to date in remembrance of St. Patrick of Ireland. Besides, it presents the cultural significance of celebrating it. However, one would ask, ‘who is St. Patrick?’
Saint Patrick was a Romano-British religious Christian missionary whom people believe was born around the end of the 4th century B.C in Britain and died on March 17 460 AD. The time that has been used in this case is termed as “believed” because there are no specific records to indicate that it is exact.
Therefore, it should be construed to mean that it was around that time because literacy levels in society were very low in the ancient times. Therefore, records to such events were scarce. It takes so much research to add up some of the dates that may come up for coherence purposes.
Saint Patrick doubled up as a missionary and bishop of Ireland who is believed to be the patron saint of Ireland. Although he was born a British, Irish raiders invaded and attacked his family’s estate capturing him and taking him away as a captive at the age of 16 years (Hyndman, 2013, p. 5). During his captivity, he became a shepherd who spent most of his time praying because he was shy and afraid of people.
This effort made him a very religious person devoted to his Christian religion after which he started having dreams of converting the Irish people into Christianity. Therefore, he is believed to be the father of Christianity in Ireland because he afterwards became the bishop of Ireland.
Saint Patrick broke off on foot after six years of being in captivity and walked for over 200 miles from county Mayo to the Irish Coast after hearing the voice of God telling him that it was time to leave Ireland. He boarded a ship and ended up in a Monastery in France. Afterwards he wrote that he dreamed of an angel telling him to go back to Ireland to spread Christianity to those who had not been converted and or preach to those who had already been converted to Christianity already.
From this point, he came back as a bishop and as a missionary. His role as a bishop was to lead the already converted Christians and as a missionary to convert new members of the Irish community into Christianity who were practicing pagans.
Therefore, Saint Patrick has been credited as the person responsible for the widespread of Christianity as a religion in Ireland. Thus, many Christians annually remember and celebrate him as the Patron Saint of Ireland, which has been a dominantly Christian state for many years (Allen, 2011, p. 375).
Saint Patrick was known to have performed many miracles, which gave rise to his fame and legendary status within the Irish community. One of the miracles he is believed to have performed was that he rid Ireland of all snakes and that, one time during a night, his fingers turned into flashlights.
It is also believed that he turned an evil ruler into a fox among other miracles. All these as brought down from the past led to the Irish community celebrating him and dedicating the day he was believed to have died to him and hence the Saint Patrick day. Originally, the day is supposed to be celebrated by mostly Irish Christians who would be celebrating their patron saint.
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St. Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick day is one of the most renowned public holidays. It celebrated all over the world on 17 March of every year in remembrance of Saint Patrick. It is originally a Christian celebration because Saint Patrick was a missionary and saint in Ireland. Since the event is a very old tradition, it has attained its own identity and recognition by the Irish government.
It is a public holiday in Ireland. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over the world today due to the spread of the Irish heritage around the globe. It is mostly celebrated in countries with many Irish residents living in those countries though it may not be accorded the status it has acquired in Ireland. Saint Patrick’s Day, as it is celebrated in the world over, is due to the Irish immigrants who have carried their culture and heritage with them, and that they tend to celebrate it even in their foreign stations.
It is also celebrated by people who trace their origins and roots to Ireland though they may have never stepped in Ireland in their entire life. Saint Patrick’s like many holidays has a theme that defines the activities that happen on that day, which are identifiable as symbols for that day. Saint Patrick’s Day has been observed from around the ninth or tenth century. People have always viewed and celebrated it as a Roman Catholic feast day.
Though it has always been celebrated for so many years, these previous celebrations have always been a sort of low-key celebrations compared to what happens today. It was previously mostly confined to households. Saint Patrick’s Day gained its pomp and color on 17 March 1762 by Irish soldiers in America who were serving in the English military who marched through New York to celebrate the day thus setting precedence in the way the day is marked or should be marked (Kenneth, 1995, p. 128).
The most interesting aspect of this day is that the very first-most March, which defines the day up to date, did not happen in Ireland but in a foreign land. Since then, every year, that day is marked with marching bands. The essence of the Irish soldiers performing a parade with marching bands as a way of celebrating this day was because they wanted to reconnect with their roots and keep touch with their traditions as observed by Lynch (2008, p. 115).
The day is celebrated all over the world with numerous parades displaying the Irish culture in terms of dress codes with marching bands playing bag pipes, which are believed to be Irish traditional music instruments. Saint Patrick day is celebrated as a way of marking the true Irish spirit for Irish people whenever they are. The day is a great attraction for both performers and spectators who line up the streets to watch the procession as it marches through the streets of towns and villages.
America and Ireland are some of the countries that see the biggest processions or the most active celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. The United States of America has one of the biggest populations in terms of Irish immigrants as well as citizens who trace their roots to Ireland as a way of keeping in touch with their identity, roots, and heritage. They tend to organize the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations (Coleman, 2009, p. 724). Boston and New York have been known to hold the best parades in the United States of America while Dublin has been known to host the grandest parade.
How the Day is celebrated
The celebration is marked with an array of different activities that are meant to reflect the Irish culture. The day is mostly amplified by the color green, which is the theme color of that day. The color green symbolizes the color of the Irish clover plant leaves known as the shamrock with which the Saint is believed to have used to explain the Holy Trinity, which means, “the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit” (Brady, 2001, p. 158).
The United States of America where there are more Irish citizens than their original country has become the only country in the world to rival Ireland in the magnitude of the celebrations to be organized. At any one time of the year during the celebration or marking of Saint Patrick’s Day, many activities happen as well as millions of spectators that come out to view them.
This turn out has therefore made Saint Patrick’s Day an attraction to many people who are not Irish or of Irish descendants thus making it a global attraction due to the interest it elicits among different people from different communities of the world (Allen, 2011, p. 378). Though marching processions have become the defining feature of this celebration, they come with an array of performances and shows that aim to entertain people who have come out to watch the procession.
In Chicago, for instance, many people usually gather along the Chicago River to see it painted with the color of Irish as an act of dying the Chicago River with a green dye to give it a unique luminous green color that is referred on this day as the Irish color. Along the marching bands, there are arrays of singers performing Irish songs as well as acrobats who perform as part of the procession.
Generally, most of the performers in the march are usually dressed in traditional Irish clothes and other colorful costumes that can complement the green color. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated with many activities with the marching being one of them. In general, it has simply become a celebration of the Irish traditional culture in general involving the preparation of Irish foods as well as well as beer.
Food prepared during Saint Patrick’s Day
The traditional foods prepared by a given community form part of their tradition and culture because communities in the world over have different kinds of foods that they prepare. Any culture has a remarkable difference based on communities in terms of the recipe for the foods they eat. Similarly, the Irish community and culture has its own recipes that it uses in preparing foods and drinks that are identified as Irish (Allen, 2013, p. 8).
To this case, Irish food, which is traditionally produced, is part of the hallmark of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. Therefore, on this day, what is identified as Irish recipes are prepared and sampled by all who come to celebrate the day. The Irish believe that their food is the best in the world because Ireland is one of the places that receive abundant rainfall in the world and that the Irish people believe their grass is the greenest in the world leading to the production of the best milk and beef.
Therefore, food becomes part of celebrating St Patrick’s Day with boiled bacon or corned beef served with cabbage and parsley sauce being the main dish for the day. Gaelic bread known as Barmbrack, otherwise known as “bairin breac” in Gaelic, which is sweet to taste, is also prepared on this day (Allen, 2010, p. 36: MacCon & Padraic, 2011).
This old age kind of bread involves adding a few items like a pea, a ring, and a piece of cloth among many things, which when found by an individual will have a certain meaning. For instance, a person who finds the pea in the bread is believed to get married within that year. Therefore, all foods that are served during this day hold certain meaning in the lives of the Irish. Other than food, the famous Irish Guinness is also served in green glass mugs.
Saint Patrick’s Day Symbols
The Shamrock Leaves
The shamrock comes out as the main symbol for Saint Patrick’s Day for two reasons. The first reason is the association of the shamrock leaves with Saint Patrick when he used them to explain the holy trinity. Saint Patrick is known to have incorporated Irish pagan beliefs in his Christian preaching and practices as a way of easily converting the Irish people into Christianity.
According to the Irish tradition, the shamrock is an ancient sacred plant called the “seamroy” by the ancient Celts. It had its symbolism in the rebirth of spring (Eastlake, 2010, 130). By 17th century, the shamrock had become a symbol of nationalism for the Irish who were being colonized by the English. It has therefore become part of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration.
These are part of the celebration. Although they were initially part of catholic celebration, they were not there from the start. Leprechauns have their origins in the Celtic folklore who believed that these small-bodied men and women pronounced as “Lobaircin” had magical powers as found in the fairy tales within the Irish folklore (Eastlake, 2010, p. 130).
Leprechauns form part of the processions during the marching on Saint Patrick’s Day. Leprechauns can be described as a recent addition to Saint Patrick’s Day celebration after it took more of a secular celebration than a religious celebration.
The snake is part of Saint Patrick’s symbols. It is usually part of the celebrations, as it is believed that Saint Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland while standing on a hilltop holding a wooden staff (Brady, 2001, p. 158). The actual interpretation of the banishment of snakes was actually a metaphor for paganism, which he referred to as snakes. Ireland never actually had snakes.
Transformations of Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day has transformed from what was previously a religious Roman Catholic feast day to a cultural day that is being celebrated in Ireland for different reasons. Although most of the people practice the remembrance of Saint Patrick’s day from a cultural drive rather than a religious ground, it should not be lost to the world that there are those devout Christians who still observe the day as it should be observed with its original purpose (Allen, 2011, p. 376).
The observation of Saint Patrick’s Day strongly by many people of Irish descent especially those living in America can be attributed to the way the Irish traditionally pass down their culture and practices to their generations down the line. This inherited practice happened to pass religion, history, as well as legend to the next generation.
It has so far worked for the Irish community. The need to uphold their identity whenever they are in the world has seen the modern-day Irish descendants embrace Saint Patrick’s Day and or adopt it because it is the best symbol for their heritage (Moss, 1995, p. 130). Saint Patrick’s Day has therefore been transformed over a long period from being a day of celebrating the Saint guardian of Ireland into a day to celebrate the Irish culture.
This transformation has seen the day further change into a tourist attraction for people who travel from distant places to come and watch the day as it is celebrated. Although many people travel to Dublin to celebrate and view Saint Patrick’s Day, the most interesting aspects that tend to paint the best picture of what one needs to see can be found in the marching parades in the Irish villages.
The Other marches like the ones in the United States of America have transformed thus incorporating many activities that are simply made to provide entertainment. Marches in the United States of America have been known to have up to 150000 participants with over 3million people lining the street over a 1.5-kilometer stretch.
Saint Patrick’s Day remains the most recognizable Irish holiday to date because of the way it incorporates all the Irish practices and symbols during its celebration. Thus, it has become a source of identity for Irish descendants both at home and in the diaspora.
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