The story behind the green: what is Saint Patrick’s day?


Photo Courtesy of Kaki Hubeny

Kaki Hubeny and Julia Aksentijevich pose in front of an inflatable leprechaun for their Saint Patrick’s Day celebration last year.

By Melissa Redlich, Features Editor

The luckiest day of the year. The Chicago River is a vibrant shade of green. The streets are filled with parades. And, leprechauns are ready to pinch. It is Saint Patrick’s Day!

However, besides the partying and pinching, what is the holiday of Saint Patrick’s Day all about?

Saint Patrick’s Day is the anniversary of the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Originally born in Rome, Saint Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at 16. While Saint Patrick did escape, he ended up returning to Ireland and was attributed with bringing Christianity back to its people.

Interestingly enough, Saint Patrick explained the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the three leaves of a native Irish clover, which is where the shamrock gets its significance.

Saint Patrick’s Day has been celebrated since around the ninth or 10th century, with people in Ireland observing this as a Roman Catholic feast day. However, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1601’s America in a Spanish colony, now which is St. Augustine, Florida.

Nowadays, to celebrate, traditional Irish Americans may prepare food including corned beef and cabbage, and decorate their homes with symbols like shamrocks and leprechauns. In addition, families might listen to traditional Irish folk or celtic music and enjoy musical and social gatherings called “céilí.”

For kids, Saint Patrick’s Day is a holiday filled with fun. While the leprechaun will pinch most, some families have the leprechaun bring gifts, with the kids ending up trying to catch the leprechaun. Other traditions for Irish families may include watching Irish step dancing, and surprisingly not only wearing green, but also wearing blue. According to the Smithsonian, Saint Patrick was depicted often wearing blue clothing, and blue was part of Ireland’s very first coat of arms.

If unable to attend the traditional Irish gatherings for Saint Patrick’s Day, there are a few things to do that suffice.

DC and Annapolis both have Saint Patrick’s Day parades, where the public can hear traditional Irish music, dance along the streets, and wear fun costumes. Furthermore, having a meal with corned beef, cabbage, or Irish soda bread is another perfect way to celebrate.

For those that are uninterested in the large crowds and loud music of a parade, exploring Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church might be the best way to observe the holiday. With the church’s grand entrance, domed roof, and colossal columns, these views will not disappoint.

Overall, no matter how it’s celebrated, Saint Patrick’s Day is filled to the brim with traditions and fun! There are so many ways to partake in Saint Patrick’s Day, and at the bare minimum, make sure to wear green. Sláinte!