Saint Patrick’s Day also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on March 17th. It is named after Saint Patrick, the recognised patron saint of Ireland.
Saint Patrick was born into a wealthy Romano-British family in the 4th century. Little is known about his childhood but around the time he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped and taken into Ireland and sold as a slave. He was believed to be held in the west coast of Ireland where he lived for six years before he escaped and reunited with family in England. Upon his return to England he immediately joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to become a priest.
While he was captive he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity and board a ship to Britain. In the year 432, he dreamed and was told to go back to Ireland this time as a bishop to Christianise the Irish people. According to Irish folklore, he also used a shamrock to explain the Christian concept of Trinity to the Irish. For thirty years he evangelizes and baptizes newly converted Irish Christians and established monasteries, churches, and schools. He died on March 17th, 461, and was canonized by the local church.
The original colour associated with Saint Patrick’s Day was blue but over the years the association of the color green with Saint Patrick’s Day grew. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day as early as the 17th century.
In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day has been celebrated as a national holiday for many centuries, but only became an official public holiday in 1903. By mid-1990s the government of Ireland began a campaign to use Saint Patrick’s Day to showcase Ireland and its culture and set up Saint Patrick’s Festival. The first Saint Patrick’s Festival was held on 17 March 1996. The following year it became a three day event, by 2000 it was a four day event and by 2006 it became a five day event.
In the United States, Saint Patrick’s Day was first publicly celebrated in 1737 in Boston where a huge number of Irish immigrants resided. The celebration was originally a celebration to remember their homeland. As Irish immigrants began to spread throughout the United States other cities developed their own traditions.
In Chicago, the annual dyeing of the Chicago River green is done on Saint Patrick’s Day. It started in 1962 where city pollution workers released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river keeping the colour of the river green for a week. Today only 40 pounds of dye is used to minimize environmental damage, it is enough to keep the colour of the river green for a few hours.
Although Saint Patrick’s Day is not a legal holiday in the United States, it is nonetheless widely recognized and celebrated. Celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, eating and drinking, religious observances, and numerous parades.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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