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It's St. Patrick's Day! And as your resident Irish person and seanchaí (storyteller) here at Coin Street, I'm here to give you some background on Ireland's most famous celebration.
What is St. Patrick's Day?
St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of Irish culture, celebrated annually on March 17, the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
The modest observance of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland dates back to the 17th century, although St. Patrick died in the fifth century. St. Patrick is said to have brought Christianity to Ireland. Due to this, with Ireland historically being a very devout and Christian place, he became a figure of national devotion and, in due course, Ireland's patron saint. The day remained a religious celebration until the 20th century.
Perhaps the most well-known legend of St. Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.
Fun fact: St. Patrick is fabled to have banished snakes from Ireland; however, this is just the stuff of legend. The reptiles never existed on Irish soil; the clime is far too cold!
Today, the national holiday has evolved into a vibrant celebration with parades, music, drinking, dancing (Riverdance, anyone?), and you guessed it, lots and lots of green.
Most people aren't aware that the St. Patrick's Day celebrations we recognise today are actually a product of Irish immigrants in the USA. Parades emerged in major cities all over the US in the 1700s, most notably Boston and NYC. As the Irish diaspora grew there, so did St. Patrick's Day festivities. As far back as the early 1900s, Americans were wearing green and attending massive parades across the country on March 17.
Bígí Linn (be with us)
You don't need to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. You don't even need to be an American whose great grandmother's sister's auntie's twin was Irish. Everyone is invited to celebrate. The Irish are famed for their friendliness and hospitality; their céad míle fáilte (one hundred thousand welcomes). Everyone is invited to sit at the table. So bígí linn! Pull up a chair, and give a nod to the barman.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh! / Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Image credit: Irish illustrator and designer Stephen Heffernan/ Hephee (www.instagram.com/hephee)
The image is the symbol of the Claddagh ring. The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring in which the heart represents love, the crown stands for loyalty, and two clasped hands symbolise friendship.