When I was younger, I was obsessed with St. Patrick’s Day. It wasn’t my Irish heritage or my mother’s love for the color green that made me love this holiday. Instead, it was the simple phrase “Erin go Braugh.” An anglicized version of the Gaelic “Éirinn go Brách, meaning “Ireland forever,” I loved the fact that it had my name in it. I had multiple signs up in my room with the phrase, proud of my name being associated with a holiday.
What does St. Patrick’s Day actually signify? Nowadays, people generally associate St. Patrick’s day with the color green, drinking beer and being Irish. How did this come to be?
Saint Patrick was a real person. Though associated as the patron saint of Ireland, he was actually born in Great Britain in the 5th century A.D. He was taken from his parents when he was 16 by Irish pirates. In Ireland, he worked as a slave for six years caring for the animals of his master. During that time, he became fervently Christian, vowing to bring all Irish people to Christianity.
According to his autobiography, after six years in Ireland, he heard the voice of God telling him to go home. He traveled almost 200 miles to the Irish coast, where he took a ship back to Great Britain. There, he started his religious training, eventually going back to Ireland as a missionary after experiencing a dream in which an angel told him to return. He went on to spend the rest of his life in Ireland, dying in Saul, Ireland, on March 17 in the late 400s.
Legends surrounding Saint Patrick include him driving the snakes of Ireland to their death in the sea, raising people from the dead, and the most popular, him using the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God, or three leaves in one stalk. The shamrock is the national flower of Ireland and heavily associated with St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated since the ninth century via the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick. Though celebrated religiously in Ireland for centuries, the St. Patrick’s Day known today originated in the United States, starting in 1601. This was the year in which a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, hosted a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
In the coming centuries, St. Patrick’s Day, as it always fall during Lent, become known as a day to break the control and discipline of Lent and celebrate. In the 1700s, as more Irish immigrants began to come to the United States, St. Patrick’s Day become larger and more revelrous. Though not celebrated this way in Ireland at the time, the Irish immigrants were happy to let loose and share their pride in their country during a time when Irish immigrants were looked down on.
Boston hosted its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, with New York City following 25 years later. As the popularity in the United States for this holiday grew, Ireland eventually began to celebrate more in this style as well, becoming a public holiday in 1903. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland was hosted by Dublin in 1931. Now, being in any of these big cities on St. Patrick’s Day will result in green everything and plenty of beer.
Ireland has long connections with the color green, though the most recent event happened in 1798, when the Irish rebels wore green uniforms to separate themselves from the red the British wore, eventually coming to signify Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day’s connection with beer goes back to its connection with Lent. This holiday lifted the restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol, and therefore it became an important part of the holiday.
This year, annual traditions, such as dying the Chicago River green, have continued. Even in Creston, local businesses and organizations are celebrating the holiday. The Union County Young Professionals group is hosting a St. Patrick’s Weekend Bar Crawl and Union 25 Co. has multiple St. Patrick’s Day-themed drinks to try.
Don’t forget to sport your green on Friday, and remember, Erin go Braugh!