Everything You Need to Know About St. Patrick’s Day

Words: Jess Spiro

You may know St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to go out and drink green beer but the truth is, there’s a lot more historical and religious significance behind the holiday. Yes, it’s a celebration stemming from the Irish, who are known to enjoy more than a tipple or two, but St. Patrick’s Day actually represents a lot more than just drinking…

st-patricks day

So, who was old Saint Patrick?

It’s probably worth mentioning that not a whole lot is known about Saint Patrick, and the stories surrounding him can be rather exaggerated. What we do know is that he was reportedly born in Scotland – not Ireland – to a wealthy British-Romano family in the 4th century. He lived there until roughly the age of sixteen, when he was captured by Irish raiders who took him back to Ireland and forced him into slavery for six years.

It was believed that during this time he turned to his religion for solace and became a devout Christian. Spurred on by his faith, he fled Ireland for England, apparently walking over 300 km to get there. Once settled in Britain, he dedicated his life to the church and became an ordained priest.

Saint Patrick's Day

He was then, ironically, sent back to Ireland, with the mission to convert the mostly-Pagan nation to Christianity. Owing to his knowledge of Irish culture and beliefs, Saint Patrick incorporated their rituals and symbols into his teaching. He chose not to discard their sacred rituals and thus was successful in converting many to Christianity. The Celtic cross is just one example of this interweaving of the two faiths, as it was more natural and welcoming for the Irish to accept. He was loved for his devotion to the Christian faith, as he spent over 40 years converting people to Christianity. He’s also credited with building thousands of churches.

Why is Saint Patrick’s Day celebrated on the 17th of March?

This is one where the waters get a little murky. Some reports say that he died on this day, but others say that he was born on this day. Either way, the day for celebrating has always been the 17 of March.

How is Saint Patrick’s Day celebrated?

Despite Saint Patrick, also fondly known as St. Paddy, being a very treasured saint in Ireland, many of the celebrations were started in other parts of the world by Irish immigrants and descendants. In Ireland however, families would observe the Saint Patrick’s day feast, where Lent restrictions were lifted and people were allowed to enjoy meat and whiskey. It’s believed that the tradition of drinking stems from this.

st patricks dayA lot of these celebrations take place in the United States, where Irish nationals fled starvation during the potato famine between 1845 and 1855 and have formed a distinct part of the US culture and heritage. In fact, the first Saint Patrick’s day parade was held in Boston, in 1737.

Green Beer and Whiskey, don’t mind if we do…

In modern times, Saint Paddy’s day signifies getting blackout drunk, but it wasn’t always like that. Following on from these parades, there were dances and festivals. Nowadays, there are still parades, but the general theme of the celebration seems to be an alcoholic one.

People partaking in the festival will often ‘drown the shamrock’. This involves placing a shamrock (a clover) at the bottom of a glass and topping it up with beer or whiskey.

A toast is made to St. Paddy, Ireland or whoever is around you and the drink is downed. The clover either gets swallowed or tossed over the shoulder with the remaining drink for good luck. Nowadays, celebrations mostly involve drinking shots and beers that are dyed green.

If you want to celebrate the day with something a little more civilised than green beer, then use another Irish national treasure, Guinness, to make these delicious Irish-inspired dishes.

Recipes for St. Paddy’s Day

Add a little Irish twist to your menu, with one of these Celtic-influenced recipes.

We love this Irish Pork Stew with Colcannon and for a sophisticated dessert, these Whiskey & Chocolate Mousse Cups.

St. Patrick
St. Patrick

Tuck into this delicious Beef and Mushroom Stout Stew with Colcannon before you get to drinking. For dessert, try these Guinness and Peanut Butter Cupcakes (yum!).

If you’re not into cake, this Guinness & Peanut Butter Ice Cream Float or Irish Coffee Shots with Vanilla Bean Cream ought to do the trick.

Read on more about how to pour the perfect Guinness pint.

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