By GRACE CLARK
Shamrocks, corned beef and the color green are only some of the familiar representations associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Here in America, a vast array of traditions take place, from attending local Irish pubs and parades to even dyeing the Chicago River green. With centuries of traditions and religious significance, this worldwide-celebrated holiday carries a rich history.
“Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies,” according to Catholic Online. “As a boy of 14 or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep.”
As a slave, Patrick became fluent in Celtic. He escaped from Ireland but later returned to preach the Gospel to the Irish natives.
The shamrock, a native clover in Ireland known for its three leaves, became well-known as the illustration St. Patrick used to teach the mystery of the Trinity. The website Irish Culture and Customs lists St. Patrick as the patron saint of the excluded and around his death “the Irish stopped slave trading and they never took it up again.” The date, March 17, celebrates his feast day and is also the anniversary of his death.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day carried religious significance, so the Irish always attended mass that day. Because the date falls during Lent, festive eating and drinking, normally restricted during Lent, were exempt. Wearing shamrocks was another popular religious tradition to celebrate and honor the saint.
Ireland now hosts a five-day event full of concerts, parades and fireworks. With all of the festivities, Ireland continues to value the religious significance by attending mass and spending the day with family, similar to Christian families celebrating Christmas.
In America, parades continue a long tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. According to the HISTORY channel website, the New York parade “is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours.”
Other major cities that host St. Patrick’s Day parades are Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Savannah.
Here in Wisconsin, Irish pubs have become the hot spot for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Brendhan McClusky, general manager for Wauwatosa’s Mo’s Irish Pub, said an Irish pub becomes a gathering spot for everyone looking to have a good time. He said that the Irish pub atmosphere is “festive, warm, full of music and beer.”
At Irish pubs, Guinness, Smithwicks and Harp beers are always popular beers because of their origin in Ireland. However, a simple “green beer” is always a fan favorite for anyone craving the signature color.
“Green beer is either Miller Lite or Bud Light with added coloring,” McClusky said.
While the majority of Irish pub goers will wear green, one interesting fact about the holiday is that the original color associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue. Because shamrocks were commonly worn, the color representation shifted from blue to green. McClusky said folks who are “into traditions will wear blue that day.”
With the rich history and array of traditions, it is no wonder St. Patrick’s Day is so popular. Besides Ireland and America, the holiday is now celebrated worldwide. The HISTORY channel website states,
“People of all backgrounds celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore and Russia.”