Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. The Irish have
celebrated this day as a religious feast day for over 1500 years.
St. Patrick was responsible for converting the population of
Ireland from Paganism (many gods) to Catholicism. He died
on March 17th in 461 AD and that day has been
commemorated as St. Patrick's day ever since then. The fact
that this day falls in the middle of Lent probably helped
secure its popularity. The Lent prohibition against consuming
meat and drinking was waived for this day. The people would
attend Mass in the morning and then feast, dance, and drink
in the afternoon. They ate the traditional meal of Irish bacon
and cabbage. Irish bacon was later replaced by the less
expensive corned beef that the Irish in America were
introduced to by their Jewish neighbors. America truly is a
"melting pot" - or corned beef and cabbage pot.
The day was first celebrated publically in America - in Boston - in 1737. The first St. Patrick's parade was held in America, in New York, on March 17, 1762 by Irish soldiers that were serving in the English military. This was before the American revolution. As more and more Irish immigrants came to the "new land" - Irish patriotism grew. Initially, the majority of these ex-patriots were members of the Protestant middle class. When the potato famine devastated Ireland in 1845, almost a million poor, uneducated Irish Catholics came to America to escape starvation. They arrived penniless and weak from hunger and were scorned for their religious beliefs and their funny accents. For these new immigrants, even the most menial job was hard to find. The Irish were typically given the most
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
An Old Irish Blessing
The shamrock was initially a sacred plant to the ancient Celts in Ireland. It symbolized the rebirth of Spring. Saint Patrick was said to have used it to illustrate "The Trinity of Christianity" and the possibility of three aspects - being as one, although this has never been substantiated. By the 1600's, as the English began to seize Irish land and prohibit the practice of Catholicism or the use of the native Irish language, the shamrock was worn and became a symbol of Irish unity. It is associated with St. Patrick's Day simply because it is Irish.
TThe cheerful, jovial leprechaun is an American invention - due mostly to Walt Disney. They're connected to St. Patrick's Day because they are fun fellows. The Celts, the ancient inhabitants of Ireland believed in fairies who had magical powers. The fairies could use these powers for good or for evil. The "lobaircins" which meant "smalled bodied fellow," were cranky souls that were responsible for mending the shoes of other fairies. They were known for their trickery - which they used to protect their legendary great wealth. We've all heard of the leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Who's to say it's not true, laddie?