What is St. Patrick’s Day and why is it celebrated?

By Clare Mankin

Business Manager

Throughout history St. Patrick’s day has been a way for Irish citizens to pay tribute to the patron saint of the Emerald Island. So when did it change? How did the once virtuous holiday turn into a slander of the island’s history?

Believed to be the missionary who converted all of Ireland to Christianity in the AD 400’s, Saint Patrick was the sole reason behind the yearly celebration. Saint Patrick was memorialized by the church with his own holiday which takes place March because he is believed to have established the Roman Catholic standing on the island.

Those who participate in the festivities today, however, view it as a day for drinking, dressup, and parades. But for those who know of its true origin, believe it to hold a deeper meaning then what the 21st century has restricted it to.

According to the History Channel, in Ireland, citizens used to view it as a holy day of obligation for the nations Roman Catholics and up until the 1970’s, that remained true. When the irish immigrated to the Americas between 1820 and 1860, the holiday shifted from that of Saint Patrick himself, to a celebration of all things Irish. Instead of spending all day at mass, people began to take part in parades and festivals.  

The BBC found that as times began to change and the world became more modernized, the holiday lost its religious meaning and instead became a day to celebrate the island’s culture as a whole.

Pubs and bars were opened instead of closed to the public and people dressed in costumes and paraded themselves around for all to see.

Irish jig dancing became a tradition in cities and towns across the nation, along with green dyed foods, drinks, cloths, and hair.

With all of these changes and behavioral shifts with today’s culture, the initial thought of and recognition of the patron saint has essentially faded away into the background. Though the holiday is still titled the same as original, modifications have been made over the years.

Changes ranging from abbreviations to a completely different nicknamed, Saint Patrick’s day has been remade to fit the stereotypes of today.

So on March 17, when people are spending the day with their family or friends and reveling in the Irish culture, remember that the holiday only exists because of a man’s faith and its significance has been greatly diminished by today’s 21st century views.

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