St. Patrick’s Day

When many think of St. Patrick’s Day, coming up on Saturday, visions of shamrocks, leprechauns, folks dressed in green and giant mugs of beer — dyed green — come to mind. But, there is considerably more behind the holiday.

According to the History Channel’s website at, the celebration which began as a religious day of feasting in the 17th century has evolved into a variety of festivals all over the world, with parades, special foods, music, dancing, and a whole lot of green to celebrate Irish culture. There are 34.7 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry, more than seven times the population of Ireland itself. Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish, as is Irish soda bread which gets its name and distinctive character from the use of baking soda rather than yeast as a leavening agent. Lime green chrysanthemums are often requested for St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations.

St. Patrick’s Day is named for one of Ireland’s patron saints, St. Patrick, of course.

The website states many Americans with Irish ancestry remember St. Patrick every year. St. Patrick’s Day is fixed on March 17, but may occasionally be moved by Catholic Church authorities. This happened in 1940, so that the celebrations would not fall on Palm Sunday, and in 2008 to avoid Holy Monday, the last Monday before Easter Sunday. Many cities throw large parades to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, including Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Savannah, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, Detroit and Toronto.

Oddly enough, this patron saint of Ireland was not born an Irishman.

According to, St. Patrick was not originally from Ireland, and is thought to have come from either Wales or Scotland where he was abducted at the age of 16 and brought to Northern Ireland as a slave. Once in Ireland, he was sent to Slemish Mountain in County Antrim to herd sheep. But on his escape, he had a vision and returned to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity. It was on this island that he remained for the rest of his life, preaching, baptizing and building churches until his death in 461 in County Down.

Many Americans with Irish ancestry, along with a lot of folks who just want to have a good time, look forward St. Patrick’s Day celebrations every year. So, whether a dinner of corned beef and cabbage is on the menu or you plan to indulge in large amounts of green beer, St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration not only for the Irish.