The Luck Of The Irish Is For Everyone On St. Patrick's Day

In our family, St. Patrick’s Day has always been a day to incorporate a little fun be it mischievous leprechauns messing up the house overnight, working green into your wardrobe, or sitting down to a hot meal of corned beef and cabbage. Moreover, I have always particularly liked the day because I do have some Irish heritage, as does my husband, but what are the origins of this festive holiday observed in more than ten countries around the world as well as the International Space Station?

Growing up, I had always heard that St. Patrick had driven the snakes from Ireland, but how did shamrocks, leprechauns, and green beer end up being the conclusion of that feat?

It is said that St. Patrick was born in Roman-Britain in the 4th century and that he was kidnapped by Irish raiders. The story goes that during his time as a slave he worked as a shepherd and “found God” who helped him make his escape. Once at home, he became a priest and returned to pagan Ireland to convert thousands to Christianity, driving off the Celts, which later was interpreted as him driving the snakes out of Ireland, which never had any snakes to begin with. The feast of St. Patrick, held on March 17, the date of his death, was originally observed by the Catholic Church and in the 17th century was made an official Christian feast day of the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran churches. In the 1990s the Republic of Ireland began a campaign using St. Patrick’s Day to showcase Ireland and its culture both nationally and internationally.

Interestingly enough, the church would lift the Lenten restriction of food and alcohol consumption for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, which eventually led to the green beer.

It is said that St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity during his conversions, but as the celebration has evolved across continents, the four-leafed clover has become associated with the day, as well. It’s estimated that for every 10,000 three-leafed clovers there is only one four-leafed clover, making it quite lucky to find one. Each of the four leaves is representative of faith, hope, love, and luck.

On another lucky note, leprechauns were incorporated with the holiday as part of Irish folklore. The mischievous little sprites spend most of their time making shoes, tending to their pots of gold, and should you catch one, will barter their freedom in exchange for granting three wishes.

And what of my favorite part of March 17, the meal, that is? It turns out that corned beef and cabbage is an Americanized version of the traditional Irish meal of bacon and cabbage. Hogs, potatoes, and cabbage were something that most Irish families raised and the dish was quite common across the country; corned beef was substituted by Irish immigrants in the United States.

St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration that invites everyone to join in, Irish or not and for those of us living in Montana, you might be interested to know that our state is home to the “most Irish town in the country”, Butte, MT. The 2010 census showed that there is a higher percentage of Irish descendants making up the overall population in Butte than anywhere else in the United States.

So live it up in Irish-style this St. Patrick’s Day! Wear some green, set some leprechaun traps, or kiss someone who’s Irish (with their permission of course) and enjoy the cultural holiday that has successfully crossed borders and continents.


Reader Comments(0)