This festival is a worldwide celebration of the Irish culture and commemorates one of Ireland’s foremost patron saints, Saint Patrick who had introduced Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century.
It is observed on the 17th of March every year which is the death anniversary of St. Patrick and the day is also known as the ‘Feast of St. Patrick Day’.
This day is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland (UK), the British overseas territory of Montserrat, the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Republic of Ireland and is also celebrated as a cultural Irish festival in many parts of the world including the United States, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in spite of it not being a public holiday there.
St. Patrick’s Day is the most celebrated national festival around the world. This day celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the heritage, culture and traditions of the Irish communities all over the world and was made an official feasting day for the Christians back in the 17th century.
Churches like the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of Ireland and the Lutheran Church observes this day each year with great splendor.
St. Patrick was said to be born in a wealthy Romano-British family in 387 CE and grew up near the border between Scotland and England. His grandfather was a priest in the church and at the age of 16, he was brought to Gaelic Ireland as a slave, kidnapped by Irish raiders. It is believed that he worked as a shepherd in Ireland for six years after which he fled back home and went on to become a Christian Missionary. Later on in life, he returned back to Ireland and converted thousands of pagans or druids into Christianity. It is said that he died on the 17th of March in the year 461 CE and was buried under Down Cathedral at Downpatrick.
Traditions And Celebrations
Celebrations are carried on with great pomp and splendor on this day. They include public parades and traditional Irish music sessions known as ‘ceilithe’. The largest parade is held in Dublin. Formal gatherings like banquets and dances are also common.
The participants of the parade include the military, youth groups, fire brigades, charitable organizations and marching bands. It is customary to wear the color green on this day as it’s believed that St. Patrick had used the green three-leaved Shamrock while explaining the Holy Trinity to the Irish Pagans. Famous landmarks are also lit up in the color green on this special occasion.
The week of St. Patrick’s Day is also called the “Irish Language Week” and people try to use speak more in Irish during this time. Christians are seen to attend special church services on this day and the usual restrictions on eating and intake of alcohol due to Lent are removed for the day. The custom of ‘drowning the Shamrock’ is popular since decades and is treated as a closing ceremony of the day’s festivities. Cups are filled with whiskey, cider or beer and a Shamrock is put into the bottom of the cups. The drink is then raised as a toast to St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland in general.
The Shamrock is then either swallowed along with the drink or it’s thrown over the shoulder to bring in good luck. The parties and celebrations of this day are incomplete without green color dyed Irish food and drinks. The traditional Irish dishes eaten on this day include corned beef with cabbage, Irish stew, Irish brown bread, Irish cream chocolate mousse cake, Irish potato soup and Guiness pie.
St. Patrick’s Purgatory is a popular pilgrimage destination on this day which people visit for penance and spiritual healing. Located on Station Island, Lough Derg in County Donegal, this place had been visited by St. Patrick and he had declared that whoever comes to this place in search of penance with full faith and repentance would be pardoned for his sins. St. Patrick’s Day also hosts the Saint Patrick’s Day Test which is an international rugby league tournament competed between the US and Ireland.
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