Saint Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays where we find ourselves looking forward to celebrating but aren’t exactly sure of where or why the tradition began. For some, it means visiting a local Irish pub, wearing green or searching for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. For others, March 17th signifies the beginning of spring and the warmer days ahead while others prefer to associate it with parties with friends and feasts of boiled dinner. While all of these methods are festive and certainly entertaining, isn’t it important to learn the real meaning behind Saint Patrick’s Day? There must be a larger significance besides dying our Ale a bright color green, right? Living in the city of Boston where a significant amount of pride and honor is shown towards Irish history, culture and customs, shouldn’t we take a few minutes to understand the meaning of this holiday?
Saint Patrick’s Day is also named “The Feast of Saint Patrick” or “The Day of the Festival of Patrick”. It was first enacted to pay homage to the death date of patron saint, Saint Patrick who was both a bishop and missionary during the 5th century. He was also deemed “The Primate of Ireland” and “The Apostle of Ireland”. As a boy, he was captured from his family by Irish Pirates from his native home of Great Britain and enslaved. Amazingly after several years, Patrick escaped, returned to his family and then moved back to Ireland once he became a cleric. The interesting part of the patron saint’s history was the decision to come back to a country where he was taken against his will in order to better the Irish community.
Upon Saint Patrick’s death, the catholic religious sector deemed the day a holy day and lifted bans on drinking alcohol, which eventually led to a strong influence of drinking on this holiday. Other customary attributes include attendance during special masses dedicated towards the saint as well as expressing patriotism to the country of Ireland. Parades and extravagant servings of traditional foods are also a significant part of the tradition such as corn beef and cabbage with soda bread. Other dishes that are frequently included are stews made with beef and platters that utilize mainly root vegetables. Another interesting custom (that occurs more commonly in the Northeast) is the planting of peas. The reasons surrounding this practice resonate from the color of the plant being green as well as the convenient time of year, which is perfect for generating seedlings.
This Saint Patrick’s Day, try something new and think about adding some of the time honored traditions to your holiday agenda!
Saint Patrick's Day is one of my favorite holidays. I look forward to my husband's corned beef and cabbage every year.
Suzie Canale, Westwood, MA