We’ve covered holidays with murky origins before, but we can say with confidence that this is one of the more…confusing ones. St. Patrick’s Day honors the patron saint of Ireland and therefore honors Irish history and tradition. But it’s modern origins cannot be separated from the United States. Where and when in the US is up for debate, but still.
In this article, we’ll cover St. Patrick himself, the origins of the St. Patrick’s Day (which is quite literally older than the whole United States of America), and how you can celebrate on Clapper.
Saint Patrick Himself 🍀
As the name would suggest, St. Patrick’s Day honors the Catholic Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Even before we began to associate the holiday with green beer and four leaf clovers, little was known about Patrick. We’re sure that he lived in Britain during the time of Roman occupation, and the he was kidnapped, enslaved, and sent to Ireland. Somehow he got away, became a priest, and eventually returned to the Emerald Isle. He’s best known for explaining the Holy Trinity with the leaves of a clover and driving snakes out of Ireland. Eventually, St. Patrick died on March 17th.
In, roughly, the year 500. That’s an entire 1,100 years before March 17th was made his feast day in 1631! And well before the origins of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as we know them.
The Parades 🌈
It took about 1,200 years after his death for the first celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day to spring up. From the beginning it was a fun and raucous holiday. It falls right in the middle of Lent and gave Christians an excuse to loosen up for a day.
One of the hallmarks of a US St. Patrick’s Day celebration are the parades. And this tradition, depending on who you ask, is older than the country itself. There are records and artifacts in St. Augustine, Florida that show there was a parade for St. Patrick in 1601! There was also a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston in 1737 (a city well-known for its Irish pride), NYC in 1762 and 1772, and Savannah, Georgia in 1813.
But in 1848, several Irish Aid parades united to form one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. That parade is still an NYC staple, the world’s oldest civilian parade, and has a 1.5 mile long parade route.
Modern Icons 🍻
Though St. Patrick’s Day is technically a religious holiday, most of the US celebrate by drinking a few too many beers and pinching people that don’t wear the color green. Most of this is fairly new to the holiday, especially the beers.
As we said earlier, St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious holiday. So it’s no surprise that Irish laws mandated pubs close up shop on the 17th. In the 1970s, this mandate was lifted…though it’s likely that Americans were drinking plenty of beer on the 17th long before that.
The color green started its association with the holiday in 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion. St. Patrick’s Day had always been a “blue” holiday, as the color was featured on ancient Irish flags and in the royal court. Irish rebels chose to wear green to contrast the British army’s red. The street ballad “The Wearing of the Green” drove the final nail into the connection’s coffin.
Aren’t You Missing Something? 🎩
In America, you’re hard-pressed to find a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration that doesn’t include a Leprechaun and a pot of gold. Leprechauns are part of the fairies that feature heavily in Irish and Celtic folklore. They’re cranky, mischievous creators responsible for mending other fairies’ shoes. Leprechauns are tricky too, and often used this skill to protect their treasure. And could anything be more precious that a cauldron full of gold coins? As far as I can tell, their prominence in the holiday is a connection to Irish folklore, and another celebration of the Emerald Isle’s history and culture.
St. Patrick’s Day on Clapper 💚🧡
To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and highlight a bit of Irish culture, we’re hosting our Luck of the Irish challenge. 16 competitors will go head to head in Live PK Battles to see who can dance the best Irish jig. Read more about the challenge and see who you’ll be rooting for here. And if you feel like kicking up your heels, Clapper is giving away 1000 coins to the creators who dance the best jig. Just film yourself dancing the Irish jig and use the hashtag #DoTheJig to enter.
Not into dancing, but still want to get into the spirit? You can use the hashtag #StPaddys23 to get in on the shenanigans.
Source and Recommended Reading 📗
If you’d like to learn more about the origins of St. Patrick’s Day, I recommend this article from Time Magazine and this article from History.com. History also has a very interesting article about America’s role in St. Patrick’s Day, and Wikipedia’s entry is as always very helpful.