Are you wearing green, watching a parade at the pub and enjoying corned beef on Friday to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Are you sure these are all traditional? Even the man thought to have inspired it may not be what you think…
Despite being a patron Saint of Ireland, Patrick was actually born in what is now England, Scotland or Wales—depending on what you read! His Father was a Christian deacon and he was born around the year 390. Most stories have him enslaved by Irish raiders at the age of 16 when they attacked his home. They took him to Ireland and kept him there for six years. Patrick returned to England and received Religious instruction and later returned to Ireland as a Missionary.
Despite being born in Britain Patrick wasn’t necessarily a Brit. While he was alive the British Iles were occupied by the Romans and it is thought that his parents were part of the Roman aristocracy. He only wrote 2 documents that have survived and they were in Latin and signed Patricius fuelling this idea. Adding more fuel to this until the 1700s, St. Patrick’s Day was a Roman Catholic feast only observed in Ireland. It wasn’t the celebrations we see today but where the faithful spent the relatively somber occasion in quiet prayer at church or at home. The fun we see today started when Irish immigrants living in the United States began organising parades and other events on March 17 to show their pride. However there are some accounts that put him as Celtic with the name Maewyn Succat.
The tradition of eating corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day is a modern one. It is usually the merrymakers in the United States, Canada and elsewhere who savour many plates of corned beef and cabbage. When in Ireland though a bacon is the centre of the foodie celebrations. It was the Irish immigrants in New York City’s Lower East Side of the 1800’s who apparently substituted corned beef, bought from their Jewish neighbours, so that they could save money. Beef is eaten extensively in Ireland but pork is a more traditional dish.
So Where did the green come from? The Irish countryside is certainly lush and green but
the Knights in the Order of St. Patrick wore what was known as St. Patrick’s blue. It may be linked to the supporters of the Irish Independence who around the 18th Century wore green and used it to represent their cause.