Are Our St. Paddy’s Day Traditions Truly Irish?

It may be startling to know that the great, green, Irish tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day all started with a man that wasn’t Irish. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even born in Ireland. In fact, the tale begins a little darkly, despite the rainbows and pots of gold that we celebrate now.

St. Patrick was actually born in Britain and had little to no interest in Christianity as a child, despite his family’s beliefs. However, the tables turned when Patrick was kidnapped at the age of 16 and brought to Ireland against his will. Once taken from his home, Patrick was forced to tend sheep as a slave for seven long years.

According to the ancient folklore, during his time away from home, Patrick found religious comfort. His newfound devotion to Christianity eventually guided his escape and he was able to return home to Britain. Once home, he was ordained as a priest. Patrick eventually returned to Ireland, of his own free will, in an attempt to convert the place that kidnapped him to Christianity.

The legend of St.Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland comes from the reality that Ireland is surrounded by freezing cold ocean waters, making it impossible for snakes to migrate to Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland and never have been; however, the legend is based on Patrick’s attempt to convert and banish evil in Ireland. The snakes are merely representative of that.

Even though St. Patrick’s Day was initially celebrated in Ireland, March 17th has become a well-known day of tradition in America. These celebrations were brought to another country years ago when many Irish immigrants escaped the potato famine and sought refuge in America. The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for example, took place in New York City in 1762, when many immigrants marched in the street to celebrate St. Patrick and their Irish roots while they were away from home.

How many truly Irish traditions do we celebrate today?

The Shamrock

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Possibly, the most iconic visual attached the to holiday, the shamrock, does have some authenticity. St. Patrick used the traditional three-leaf shamrock to explain the holy trinity in his teachings in Ireland. The well-known plant also germinates in the Spring, which is near the time of celebration.

The Green

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Blue was actually the color originally linked to this holiday. However, over time, Ireland’s nickname “The Emerald Isle” inspired the color green and went hand-in-hand with the celebrations. The earthy tones were also linked to the shamrock in Patrick’s teaching and in Ireland’s flag. Therefore, green felt more appropriate.

All The Pinching

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Believe it or not, this tradition has nothing to do with St. Patrick himself. The practice of pinching those who don’t wear green is entirely American. The story goes that if you wore green you were invisible to the many lively Leprechauns out and about. These fairies were believed to, if they could see you, pinch just to cause mischief.

The Beer

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The celebration of St. Patrick’s day was a convenient loophole during Lent. The festivities began as a feast day to honor St. Patrick, which allowed those celebrating to break their Lenten restrictions and indulge for one day. This obviously resulted in a day of excessive drinking and has become a part of the holiday even today.

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