First of all, St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and that means that there are celebrations, traditions, superstitions, and some history that we can learn about.
His feast day is celebrated on 17th March every year and there are parades held on this day right across the world, mainly in Ireland and in all the places where the Irish diaspora spread through.
Generally the Irish are superstitious people and even though we know most of these myths not to be true, you will be hard pushed to find anyone in Ireland who will actually openly deny that to be the case. – As it normally happens with superstitions and traditions all across the world.
Drowning the Shamrock
The connection between the three leaves cloves and St Patrick is known by anyone that dove just a little bit in the Irish culture. It is said that St Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity, more than that is also said that he was the first one doing the drowning of the Shamrock – yeah, yeah … we know that this is mostly impossible, but is always more interesting to assume that these stories are true.
Well, what is the drowning of the Shamrock, you ask.
It seems that the shamrock is put in a glass of whiskey, and after drinking it the person who did it should throw it over the left shoulder – why? Well, your guess is as good as mine … but imagine St Patrick doing it 🙂
I think this has become a worldwide symbol of good luck, it seems that for each four-leaf clover there are 10.000 three-leaf clovers, so it is really a question of luck to find one.
Wearing the green
And then there’s the wearing green tradition, this one I never quite understood until trying to read a bit more about it, and there’s some history behind it … it seems that the green being considered Ireland color – not officially – is fairly recent, it used to be blue – and in some cases it still is – but on an attempt to separate even further from the UK during the independence, the green started to be used as a national color, it is also on the Irish flag where it represents the Catholics, while the orange represents protestants.
It somehow flowed through to every aspect in the Irish culture, even more so in sports, and of course in the St Patrick day celebrations.
And in the middle of all this, there is also an authentic Irish song about wearing green:
To drink or not drink
As we all know, St. Patrick’s Day is now known as a drinking party, it seems to have started in a somehow americanization of this celebration, but that entered Ireland when in the mid-’90s, where, in an effort to boost tourism, a festival around the St Patricks day was created.
However, – and this can be a bit of a shock for anyone that only know about St Patrick's day from what we normally see – St Patrick’s day is during lent, and this is a period of sacrifice, although it was always possible to bend the rules a little bit.
In Ireland and at least until the ’70s the pubs were closed – that would now be impossible - well this year it will probably happen – and the celebration included a trip to church – imagine doing that nowadays with the massive hangover that a partying during St Patricks normally bring us.
So although we, – or at least until I read about this – I normally associate St Patrick’s day with drinking – and drinking Guinness or some weird green drink - this is an americanization, since in Ireland the dying of food and drinks is not well taken (there was a famine not that long ago) – we can also go through the more traditional celebrations including a trip to church and assisting to a sober parade.
Kissing the Blarney Stone
This is one of the weirdest – and let’s hope that no one does it at least while we’re in this pandemic situation – so, the superstition is that if you kiss the stone – and to kiss it one has first go up to the top of the castle and then bend backward on the edge – you’ll win the gift of the gab – basically you’ll be way too good at talking.
Who was St Patrick?
But after all these superstitions, and a little touches of history, lets see who was St Patrick:
- He was actually born in Scotland and was also known to have wealthy parents called Calpurnius and Conchessa who were Romans. Nothing is clear from history of the precise year in which he was born but it is estimated that this was around 385 AD.
- Between the age of fourteen and sixteen years of age, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who took him to Ireland where he spent six years as a slave in captivity. The precise location is not recorded but many claim this to be at Mount Slemish, near Ballymena in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
- It is also known he worked as a shepherd.
- He did escape when he was around 22-23 years of age.
- After that and according to his own documented writing, God spoke to him in a dream and told him he had to leave Ireland, and then when he returned to Britain he had a second dream that he was to go back to Ireland as a missionary.
- He was ordained as a priest by St Germanus and then sent back to Ireland with the task of ministering to the few Christians already in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish to Christianity.
- He was later made a bishop.
- Ireland at that time was a country full of pagan beliefs and strong fixed cultures. Patrick would have been aware of this and also fluent in the Irish language.
- Rather than fight against that he incorporated his Christian teachings with their old beliefs.
- An example of this was the creation of the Celtic Cross where he added the sun in the center of the standard Christian cross.
- He also used the common growing shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Its three leaves represented God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- A classical myth is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, but the reality was that they never existed in Ireland in the first place. All I can tell you is there are no snaked in Ireland, so read from that what you will.
- St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th March and is believed to be the date of his death though again this is not officially recorded anywhere. Historians believe he died at Saul which is near Downpatrick in Northern Ireland around the year 461.