St. Patrick's Day - March 17, 2014
St. Patrick's Day 2011 will be celebrated on Thursday, March 17. Although this celebrated holiday is known worldwide, many people don't have a lot of knowledge about the occasion's origins nor the man whom the day honors.
Most people think of St. Patrick's Day as a Catholic holiday, but over time, it has become one recognized by most faiths. Not much is known about St. Patrick's early life. His family was wealthy, and his ancestry was Romano-British. Both his grandfather and father served as deacons in the Roman Catholic Church.
History has it that Patrick was captured as a teenager by Irish raiders to be carried to Ireland in slavery. The exact area of Ireland where he was taken is unknown, but it was on the west coast. In a dream, God told Patrick to run from his captors to the coast and get on a ship sailing to Britain. Things worked out just as portrayed in the dream, and there Patrick studied for the priesthood.
In 432, 26 years after his captivity, Patrick reported that God called him to return to Ireland to carry the Gospel to the Irish. He stayed in Ireland for almost 30 years until his death in 461. He was buried at what is now called Downpatrick (Patrick's stronghold). It was the town of Down, which lies 33 km south of Belfast. The topic of the 2004 St. Patrick's Symposium was "Talking Irish," during which the nature of Irish identity, economic success and the future was discussed. Since 1996, there has been a greater emphasis on celebrating and projecting a fluid and inclusive notion of "Irishness" rather than an identity based around traditional religious or ethnic allegiance. The week around St. Patrick's Day usually involves Irish speakers using more Irish during ''seachtain na Gaeilge'' ("Irish Week").
Legend has it that Patrick taught the trinity by illustrating it through the shamrock or three-leaf clover. That is why the shamrock has remained a part of the St. Patrick's Day tradition. Blue was the original color for St. Patrick's Day, but green evolved partially because of the shamrock. Although other dignitaries served in Ireland on similar missions, Patrick remains the most prolific to the Irish Church and people.
The popular term "wearing of the green" was coined during an uprising in 1798. Soldiers wore green uniforms on March 17 of that year to gain attention for their cause. The term is used more often today to mean the placement of a shamrock on the clothing.
St. Patrick's Day became an official Catholic Feast Day in the 17th century, although Irish in Europe were celebrating the St. Patrick's feast day as early as the 9th or 10th centuries. Over time, this evolved in Ireland as a celebration of Irish heritage and culture. Today, the celebration has become a recognized public holiday in Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, Labrador, Montserrat, and the Republic of Ireland.
The large number of Irish immigrants who have relocated to other parts of the world has led to the proliferation of St. Patrick's Day worldwide. Although it is not an official holiday in the United States, you wouldn't know it by observing the many festive parties, parades, and events associated with the day, especially in the northeastern sections of the country.
The Chicago River is dyed green in celebration of St. Patrick's Day each year, and the White House fountain followed suit with green water in the years 2009 and 2010. Pubs and taverns offer green beer and Irish whiskey. There is also the long standing tradition to pinch anyone caught not wearing something green on the celebrated day.
Other symbols associated with St. Patrick's Day include the leprechaun, a pot of gold, the Celtic cross, and the blarney stone.
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