Celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint.
Every St. Patrick’s Day, the world celebrates Ireland’s patron saint along with our culture. It’s a day for ceol agus craic – music and fun – as well as a pint. Around the world, people with Irish heritage wear it on their sleeve. Irish jewelry, t-shirts, hats and sweaters are worn with pride. Among all the nations, one place stands out on March 17th. The United States of America is the birthplace of St. Patrick’s Day as we know it now, and parades in Dublin feature American marching bands. Modern America has roots in every part of the globe, but there is something very special about the deep connection between the USA and Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day began in what is now Florida back when it was a Spanish colony. The saint’s feast day was placed on the liturgical calendar in the early 1600s, making it a holy day of obligation for Catholics. Two Irish priests in St. Augustine, Florida, Fr. Richard Arthur and Fr. Thomas Hassett, organized the first celebration of the saint on March 17th, 1600. The following year, it became a parade. In 1737, Boston held its first festival honoring St. Patrick. New York City’s world-famous parade began in 1762. This was all before George Washington gave his troops Paddy’s Day off in 1780.
So Ireland’s national holiday was being celebrated in North America long before the large waves of Irish immigrants arrived fleeing the Famine. It began before the USA or Ireland were independent countries. That is a powerful statement about the strength of the bond between the two nations.
That relationship has blossomed with milestones such as Annie Moore being the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island in 1892 to the Irish workers who built the railroad west. St. Patrick Himself Patrick changed Ireland dramatically. He was largely responsible for converting the Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock to explain the concept of the holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to a people who had worshiped a triple goddess, giving us an enduring symbol in the process.
But Patrick wasn’t Irish. Patrick was born in Scotland to Christian Roman parents circa 837 AD. His father served as a deacon, and one of his grandfathers was a priest. Patrick himself was not especially devout when he was young. That changed when he was abducted and brought to Ireland as a slave. He began to pray fervently, up to a hundred times a day, until he had a vision of how to escape his pagan captors.
After a few peaceful years back home in Scotland, he had a vision that compelled him to return to Ireland with the goal of sharing the word of Jesus with the people. Ireland’s wealth of ancient churches and monasteries are an enduring tribute to his success, as is the global popularity of the humble shamrock as a symbol of Ireland.
This is the second year when the Covid 19 pandemic has quashed plans for Ireland’s celebration, but the Irish are nothing if not resilient. Communities will celebrate together again, and in the meantime, people will continue to nurture their Irish roots in a whole range of creative ways.
Celebrate your Irish heritage with handmade gifts from Ireland