What is St. Patrick’s Day?


Background- Who was Patrick? 

Maewyn Succat, also known as St. Patrick, was born in Britain around 385 AD.

Until he was sixteen-years-old he considered himself to be an atheist, or in those days, the proper term would’ve been pagan.

It wasn’t until when a group of Irish raiders took hold of his village and kidnapped Patrick to Ireland that he was exposed to Christianity. 

According to legend, Patrick had an epiphany in the middle of the night that told him to board a ship that then took him back to Britain where he joined a monastery.

He ended up staying there for twelve years after realising his calling was to convert pagans to Christianity. 

After he was appointed as bishop, Patrick returned to Ireland.

While he was in Ireland, Patrick established monasteries, churches and schools. Utilising the shamrock to teach people about the holy trinity, hence the three leaf clover.

He even returned to buy his freedom from his former master but the man decided to burn himself in his house with all his possessions instead of coming face-to-face with his former slave. 

Patrick stayed in Ireland for thirty years until he retired. He remained in Ireland and died on March 17th AD 461, the date we now celebrate as St. Patricks Day. 

Patrick was never canonised by a Pope but his name appears on the list of Saints. 

st paddys

St. Patrick’s Day

The day of feast was originally included on the Catholic church’s liturgical calendar in the early 1600s. From then on it has been considered a holy day for Catholics who are required to attend mass on the 17th of March.

St. Patrick’s Day didn’t become an official holiday until 1903 when the Bank Holiday Act of 1903 was introduced in Ireland, which initially, required all pubs to be closed.

Since the day is during the lenten prohibition, the ban from eating meat was lifted. Mass was attended in the morning and feasts carried on into the afternoon that included singing and dancing. 

The St. Patrick’s Day that we know of today is an Irish-American construct. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving with the English military marched through Manhattan to a local tavern.

The first official parade took place in 1848 and became the largest in the United States. 


Why do we wear green?

The tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day began in the 7th century. The original colour associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue but green effectively replaced it.

Most likely because of Ireland’s nickname, the Emerald Isle. The green stripe in the Irish flag also played a role, as well as the fact that most people associate Ireland with the colour green. 


Where did green beer come from?

In 1914 an Irish-American Doctor called Thomas Hayes Curtin revealed his one-of-a-kind invention of ‘green beer’.

Similar inventions had been linked to green beer before but he is the inventor that most historians site.

However, his green beer wasn’t very safe to drink as it allegedly contained an iron powder solution that was used to whiten clothes.

This was used to turn the beer into the iconic green colour.

Nowadays, bar keeps have taken to changing the colour of beer with a little help from food dye. 

Green beer is still a term used today to describe beer that’s too young. ‘Green beer’ still contains acetaldehyde, which can make the beer taste bad because it’s not yet fully fermented.

However, what you’ll be drinking on St. Patrick’s Day will most likely be normal beer with food colouring- but at your own risk.

st partricks infographic

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