The Origins Of St. Patrick's Day

Published on 2019-05-20
Green Shamrock

St. Patrick's Day is one of the most known global celebrations, taking place annually on March 17th. Named after the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick's Day sparks Irish festivals, parades, and feasts around the world.

While most people know that St. Paddy's Day involves wearing green and possibly attending parades, there's a long line of history that brought us to the St. Patrick's Day celebrations we know and love today.

Why is St. Patrick's Day celebrated and who was St. Patrick? This article will tell you everything you need to know about the history of St. Patrick's Day.

The origins of St. Patrick's Day bring us back to over 1000 years, taking place on the anniversary of the death of Ireland's patron saint. In the early 1600s, the church established the date of Saint Patrick's death as an official feast day in his honour.


Since St. Patrick's Day fell during the religious observation Lent, it was customary for Christians to head to church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon where prohibitions against meat were waived in time for festive drinks and dancing.


Who was St. Patrick?

We know that St. Patrick's Day was established to honour the patron saint of Ireland, but who was he?

Contrary to popular belief, it's said that St Patrick isn't actually of Irish descent. Born Maewynn Succat in Britain, St. Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave when he was a teenager.

During his time away from Britain, St. Patrick delved deeper into Christianity before fully converting to the religion. And after about six years in Ireland, St. Patrick escaped back to Britain. While there, he was soon inspired to return to Ireland on a mission to spread Christianity to the Irish people.

After St. Patrick's death, the legend continued to spread over centuries, making him a famed and honoured name in Irish history and culture.


The History of St. Patrick's Day Parades

St. Patrick's Day didn't always mean big parades, but some of the world's most prominent St. Patrick's Day parades take place in the United States. It's no surprise that America is where the tradition of St. Patrick's Day parades kicked off.

While New York laid claim to the world's first St. Patrick's Day parade in 1762 by Irish soldiers serving in the British army, it's argued that the first St. Patrick's Day parade was actually held in Boston in 1737 to celebrate Irish culture.

That being said, new facts may bring the very first St. Patrick's Day parade to St. Augustine, Florida. St. Patrick was seen as the patron saint of corn in this Spanish settlement during the time, leading the first parade to be held in St. Augustine in St. Patrick's honour in 1601.

Either way, it's clear that America had a hand in spear-heading this tradition since Ireland didn't get in on St. Patrick's Day parades until the early 1900s.

St. Patrick's Day parades grew increasingly popular across the United States, especially with the influx of Irish immigrants to the east coast during the 1800s.

The parade trend grew so much that in 1848, Irish Aid Societies in New York decided to band together to form one official parade in New York City. Since then, New York City has become home to one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the world with over 150, 000 participants annually.


The Origins of St. Patrick's Day Traditions

As the story of St. Patrick spread from centuries ago, pieces of the legend stood out that are used in celebrations today. These symbols have become a significant part of modern-day St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

And as the Irish population and St. Patrick's Day parades grew over the American nation, states started adapting their regional traditions over the years.


The Colour Green

Most people know that one of the main ways to show you're celebrating St. Paddy's Day, is to wear green. It's such a big deal that tradition has it that those who don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day get pinched!

Ireland has been linked to the colour green for ages but according to some legends, the real link between the Irish and the colour green began during the Irish rebellion against the British in 1641. Soldiers chose this colour to contrast with the British red and used green as a dominant sign of rebellion.

History would repeat itself during the 1840s when Irish immigrants in America wore green while carrying both the American and Irish flag to show off some Irish-American pride.

Today, the green tradition sticks. In fact, you can find green monuments on St. Patrick's Day in cities all over the world from Paris to Dubai.


The Green Chicago River

Speaking of green landmarks, one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day traditions happens in Illinois, where the Chicago River goes green.

This tradition was established in 1962 when green vegetable dye was used to trace illegal sewage. Realizing green dye in the Chicago river added a festive flair to the city, they started dying the river green to celebrate.

The first Chicago River celebration led to 100 pounds of dye being deposited into the river, keeping the river green all week! Now, the city uses a fraction of that, giving the Chicago River a green tint for several hours to ring in the celebrations.


The Shamrock

Ever wonder why there are shamrocks plastered everywhere during St. Patrick's Day? The three-clover shamrock is not only a significant symbol for St. Patrick's Day, but it's a prominent Irish symbol as well - this is in part thanks to St. Patrick.

While St. Patrick isn't the first relation to shamrocks Ireland has had in their history, it's said that while he was spreading the word of Christianity, he used a three-leafed clover to explain the idea of the holy trinity.

Since clovers were abundant in Ireland, it's said he continued to use clovers throughout his journey to help bring more people to Christianity.

This influenced the images of St. Patrick with shamrocks, which helped solidify the shamrock in St. Patrick's history and in events around the world today.



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