The Tradition of Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

On March 17 the whole world celebrates St. Patrick's Day. This holiday honors St. Patrick, a saint who ministered Christianity in Ireland in the fifth century. However, today St Patrick's Day not only commemorates the saint but is rather a global celebration of Irish culture.

Gaeltalk St. Patrick's Day Parade

St. Patrick's Day is widely celebrated by Irish communities and organizations around the world. Traditionally people wear something green that day. Holiday menus include a variety of Irish foods and drinks dyed in green food color. On St Patrick's Day children are allowed to indulge in candy while adults can have some beer at a local pub. That day many dining venues serve an assortment of Irish specialties, such as beef and Guinness pie, Irish brown bread, Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, Irish potato champ, Irish cream chocolate mousse cake, Irish coffee and more.

People who are searching for spiritual healing head to St Patrick's Purgatory, a sacred place commonly associated with penance since the 13th century. There, on Station Island in Lough Derg in County Donegal St. Patrick is believed to have had a vision that everyone who went on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary in penitence and faith would have sins pardoned.

It should be noted that St. Patrick's Day is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is also celebrated in some other countries, with parades held in the cities, although it is not a public holiday.

Background

Gaeltalk St. Patrick's Purgatory

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland who is believed to have died on March 17, 493. He was born in Roman Britain, but when he was young he was captured by raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave. Some years later he returned to his family and became a clergyman as his father and grandfather. Then he went to Ireland to work as a missionary.
A popular legend says that St. Patrick set Ireland free of snakes. However, there is evidence that there have been no snakes in Ireland since the last ice age. Probably under the "snakes" people meant druids or pagan worshipers of snake or serpent gods that left the country after Christianity became popular. St. Patrick is supposed to be buried under Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Ireland. Two other patron saints of Ireland are St Brigid and St Columba.
Luke Wadding, a Franciscan scholar, initiated the tradition of celebrating the anniversary of St. Patrick's death as a feast day in the Catholic Church. That is why St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on another day if March 17 falls during Holy Week.
Beginning from the 19th century many Irish people immigrated to other countries, such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. No wonder that the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick's Day became rather popular in these countries.

Gaeltalk Symbol of St. Patrick's Day

Symbols

In addition to green color that symbolizes Ireland, shamrock is another most popular symbol of St. Patrick's Day. Shamrock is the leaf of the clover plant that is associated with the Holy Trinity. During St Patrick's Day parades the flag of the Republic of Ireland is often seen. And no St. Patrick's Day festivity is complete without Irish brands of drinks.
Religious symbols include snakes or serpents, and the Celtic cross. Other Irish-related symbols you can commonly see on St. Patrick's Day events are the harp, the leprechaun, a mythological creature, and a pot of gold that the leprechaun keeps hidden.