Happy St Patrick’s Day!
If you’re Irish, have Irish heritage, or if you just admire the Irish and like a pint of Guinness, chances are you’re going to be embracing St Patrick’s Day.
But why is St Patrick’s Day such a big deal? We’re glad you asked.
Who was St Patrick?
Patrick was a Christian missionary in Ireland in the 5th century. It’s believed that Patrick was born into a wealthy family in the British Isles – both his father and grandfather were Christian priests. When he was 16, Patrick was abducted by Irish raiders, and taken to Ireland as a slave.
After six years, Patrick escaped and returned to his family in Britain. In later years, Patrick – now a priest – returned to Ireland with the mission to convert the pagans of Ireland to the Christian religion.
It is believed the Patrick died on 17 March, which is why that date is celebrated as St Patrick’s Day.
The legend of the snakes
One of the stories about St Patrick is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. According to natural history experts, there were never any snakes in Ireland. The story is allegorical, and refers to Patricks efforts to force the druids – the traditional religious leaders of the pagans – out of their communities.
Celebrating St Patrick’s Day
Due to the waves of immigration from Ireland across the centuries, St Patrick’s Day is enthusiastically celebrated around the world. Communities of Irish immigrants in the United States began the tradition of holding parades in honour of St Patrick’s Day. Shamrocks are worn, Guinness is drunk, banquets are held, and green is the official colour of everything.
The shamrock is an emblem that’s associated with St Patrick’s Day as St Patrick is said to have used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish.
One of the reasons that St Patrick’s Day may have been embraced as one of the highlights of the year is that it became an accepted practice that the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day.
How queer is St Patrick’s Day?
The St Patrick’s Day parades in New York City and in Boston are among the world’s biggest. These are parades that celebrate civic pride, and different community groups march to showcase their connection with the city. In recent years, there has been controversy as LGBTQ community groups have sought to take part in these parades but found that they were being excluded. The legal case arising from this discrimination was taken to the US Supreme Court 2014. The complaint of LGBTQ groups was upheld, and the Supreme Court ordered an end to the discrimination, enabling LGBTQ community groups to now take part.