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True Irish Meaning of St. Patrick's Day

Updated on May 29, 2012
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Saint Patrick's Day

Today’s St. Patrick’s Day involves traditions we still follow blindly to this day every March 17th. But the legends behind them are quite interesting.

One common legend is that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. It was said that all of the snakes were turned to stone thanks to his prayers, and the power of God.

There is also a legend behind us all wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. It is said that St. Patrick’s followers were put in a house made of dry wood, while a Protestant’s followers were put in a house made of green wood. Both were set to flame, but Patrick’s followers were the only survivors. Since then, green has been worn each year on St. Patrick’s Day.

Shamrocks, or three leaf clovers, are part of today's celebration because of there is legend of them being used by Patrick as religious visual representation explaining that each clover was like Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

By the time Patrick, the Roman saint from Britain, passed away in the year 460, he was so accepted, loved, and even worshiped, in Ireland that the entire nation was stricken with grief. In his youth, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave, but when he was finally able to escape, he returned years later to bring Christianity to the people of Ireland. He was not Christian raised, but found Christ during his time as a slave. All of the people whom he had brought Christ to mourned during the twelve ‘Days of Lamentation’ of his wake.

“The list of Irish saints is past counting; but in it all no other figure is so human, friendly, and lovable as St. Patrick - who was an Irishman only by adoption.” -Stephen Gwynn

In Ireland, February and March were the months with the harshest weather conditions. The cold was so very bitter that people and animals were much more likely to die at this time. “He’ll never go up the March hill” was a phrase that would have been said of a man whose health was failing during March.

St. Patrick’s Day is about halfway ‘up that hill’, on the seventeenth. This is the day St. Patrick was said to have changed the weather, that there would be an end to the cold, and that farmers could plant their potatoes and sow their grain.

“St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time – a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.” –Adrienne Cook

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St. Patrick's Day Festivities

By 1970, St. Patrick’s Day was turned into a week-long festival by the Dublin Tourist authorities. The festival was influenced by American ideas. The funny thing is the holiday is not even as celebrated in Ireland as it is in the United States anymore. New York is the location with the most celebration of this holiday.

“C'mon, Moe. It's been St. Patrick's Day for hours now and I'm not drunk yet!” -Homer Simpson

Over the years, the tales of Saint Patrick have been exaggerated and perhaps the truth has been lost among time. But one thing is for sure, his impact on Ireland was profound enough to have created a tradition that has spread across the world and we have kept alive all of this time.

“Here's to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one
A pretty girl and an honest one
A cold beer - and another one!”
~St. Patrick's Day Toast

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    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 5 years ago from Scotland

      Interesting, educational and a Homer Simpson quote, this Hub has it all.....jimmy

    • Cheds profile image
      Author

      Heather Henley 5 years ago from Buckfield, Maine

      Thanks!

    • twinstimes2 profile image

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      I never knew why St. Patrick's Day was the 17th. A Catholic college from my home town strategically places spring break during St. Patrick's Day to keep the campus from getting too crazy! Interesting hub, Cheds!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Interesting hub. I've been told before that St Patrick wasn't actually Irish although many saints don't seem to be from the origin of their legends.

      It's such a shame now that St Patricks day has almost become a gimmick for Irish bars around the world to shift copious amounts of overpriced ale and whisky in a similar way that the true meaning of Christmas has been replaced by a big man in a red suit who brings presents.