It is almost St. Patrick’s Day again

The following is a personal viewpoint from HubPages Staffer Norah Casey on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day, and my green is all packed away.  This is quite intentional. I don’t particularly like celebrating St Paddy’s with the general public, and I avoid cheesy “Irish pubs” at all costs. However, as a proud Irish-American on the HubPages staff, I thought I should write a post on an Irish holiday that is both widely celebrated and mostly misunderstood.

The holiday was originally established to reflect upon and honor Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was born into a wealthy family in Briton, far from the shores of Ireland. He was kidnapped as a teenager and sent to Eire as a captive slave, until he escaped some years later. He claimed that a vision demanded he return to Ireland, which he did after becoming a bishop. Saint Patrick travelled throughout the country as a remarkably talented missionary. He incorporated symbols of reverence used by the ancient Irish people into Christian contexts, such as a sun (a strong symbol in ancient Irish customs) combined with a cross to form the signature Celtic cross. The three leaves of the shamrock was used to depict the Holy Trinity. Bonfires were burned on Easter, similar to a local tradition of burning great fires to honor the gods.

One of the most frustrating aspects of historical study, especially when dealing with a time frame as remote as the fifth century, is a lack of primary documents from the individuals being studied. Fortunately, Saint Patrick left behind a rare wealth of information for our study. There are two pieces of writing from Saint Patrick which details his life, thoughts and visions (though without dates). His book Confession tells of his enslavement, visions, and missionary work. A letter to the soldiers of Caroticus relays information on his rather ordinary missionary existence. One of the great legends associated with Saint Patrick has to do with his divine miracle of driving the snakes from Ireland. In fact, there have never been snakes in Ireland. Or in Iceland or Greenland, for that matter. First, Ireland is an island and snakes have a bit of trouble swimming long distances. Secondly, the only time that a snake could have made the crossing, it would have been killed by the glaciers that covered the land during the recent ice ages. The snakes of the legend are presumably a sneaky reference to the Druids.

This is all very interesting to a historian or history student (such as myself), but these facts don’t matter much to an average Irish-American. Or really any American of drinking age, as the holiday has become associated with dyed beer, ‘kiss me’ stickers, green shiny shamrock decorations, and parties. While some Irish and Irish-Americans still consider this holiday a time for reflection, solemn worship, and perhaps a family get-together, others prefer enjoying large quantities of alcohol from bottles adorned with harps, Gaelic-style script and Celtic symbols. Such exuberance began in Ireland many years ago, leading to legislation in 1927 that prohibited the sale of alcohol on Saint Patrick’s Day to keep the partying down. This was lifted in the 1960s to promote tourism, and now festivities can be found throughout the island. For many Irish-Americans, Saint Patrick’s Day is the one day out of the year when one can proudly assert their Irish roots at the local bar, no matter how small the fraction of ancestry. Personally, I’d much rather watch “The Quiet Man” at home and enjoy good drinks and great company with family. And I won’t be wearing green.

Hubs:

Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipes For St. Patrick’s Day
A fantastic set of Corned Beef recipes from HubPages Community Manager Maddie Ruud

How to Cook Irish Food and Prepare a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner
This is a great hub with a recipe for soda bread and a great list of reasons to drink Guinness.

St Patrick’s Day Shots and Shooters
What link list on St Paddy’s would be complete without mixed drink ideas?

Other sources:

Patricia McDonagh, “Exemptions from Good Friday alcohol-sale ban,” Independent.ie, 09 March 2010.

Promocodeslady, Weekend Sale and Coupon ie, 11 March 2010.

James S. Donnelly, Jr., “Religion: The Coming of Christianity.” Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture. 2 vols. Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.

One thought on “It is almost St. Patrick’s Day again

  1. We originally had a four leaf clover on the City website for the Irish Festival. Many of the Irish Festival committee members are of Irish decent and they thought it would be symbol of good luck. However, an Irish historian called the City of Fort Lauderdale to point out the error in using a four leaf clover with St Patrick’s name. We corrected it on all marketing materials immediately.

    Check out our hub too: http://hubpages.com/hub/Fort-Lauderdale-Irish-Festival

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