When this hits print, expect to see a bunch of green in public. No, I am not talking about the stimulus that should be sent out to most of our bank accounts, I am talking about St. Patrick’s Day.
Although I am not Irish, I do find myself wearing green a lot more than most. I am a fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and I have several T-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, socks and shoes that can prove that fact. I think each day I have some green on, whether it is my workout shoes (green and Notre Dame logoed), a hat (also Notre Dame) or shirt (yep, Notre Dame).
The only time that I might be sans green is at work. I am usually wearing khakis and a polo. But on St. Patrick’s Day, a touch of green here and there doesn’t really look out of place.
Who was St. Patrick?
Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Roman Britain, but was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at 16. He would later escape, but returned to Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to its people.
Following his death, Patrick’s legacy continued to grow. One of the most famous legends involved his explanation of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the native Irish clover, the shamrock.
History of St. Patrick’s Day
According to history.com, St. Patrick’s Day is the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick in the fifth century. Irish people have been observing this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years, with families attending church in the morning and celebrating in the afternoon. Lenten consumption of meat was waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
It is estimated that Ireland began recognizing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick around the ninth or 10th century. But an interesting note is that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place in America in 1601. It was held in a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida and was arranged by an Irish vicar Ricardo Artur.
The celebration continued to grow in cities such as New York City and Boston. In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies united their parades to form the official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which today has over 150,000 participants and is the oldest and largest civilian parade in the United States.
Another tradition is the city of Chicago dying the Chicago River green. This began in 1962 for practical purposes as the city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and thought green dye would provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. Today, the city puts 40 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river to celebrate the holiday.
While many associate leprechauns with St. Patrick’s Day, they really are only a minor figure of the holiday. Taken from Irish folklore, the “small-bodied fellow” stems from the Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use magical powers to serve good or evil. The little fellows were perceived as cranky and guarding their much-fabled treasure. Many dress up as leprechauns to celebrate the holiday.
While not an Irish tradition, the American-born innovation began sometime in the early 20th century, according to vox.com. Generally, the drink is credited to Thomas H. Curtin of New York as he handed out green beer to his clubhouse around 1914. The Spokane Press wrote a story about green beer in 1910 as the First Avenue Bar served the colored beer to patriotic Irishmen and whoever else wanted to drink the green brew. Around the 1950s, green beer has become a staple of several establishments for St. Patrick’s Day across the country as blue dye is dropped into the yellow beer to make the green concoction.
So, break out that emerald suit or dress that you have been dying to wear. Because on St. Patrick’s Day, “everyone is Irish.”
Zach Stich is the managing editor at the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.