Question: Apart from an excuse for young people, who are as Irish as my wife’s Maltese Shih Tzu dog, to get boozed to the eyeballs, what exactly is St Patrick’s Day?
Answer: It’s the annual feast day that celebrates St Patrick, the most commonly recognised, and best known, of the patron saints of Ireland.
Some St Patrick’s Day trivia, to be sure, to be sure:
- St Patrick (c AD387-493) was born as Maewyn Succat (true) in Britain of wealthy parents. Kidnapped at age 16 by Irish raiders, he was forced to work as a shepherd in Ireland. One night he dreamt that God would lead his escape. He escaped the next day and returned to Britain. There he had another dream that an angel told him that that God wanted him to become a missionary and spread Christianity to Ireland.
- He spent the next 15 years training to become a priest and adopted the name Patrick as his Christian saint name.
- He returned to Ireland in 432AD and spent the next 30 years teaching and preaching, often using the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- After his death the country set aside a day to honour him.
- Originally the colour of St Patrick was blue, Over the years it changed to green because of his use of the shamrock as the symbol of the Holy Trinity and the wearing of a shamrock on his day.
- The song and expression “wearing of the green” refers to the wearing of the shamrock.
- St Patrick’s Day started as a simple feast day to honour St Patrick but grew over the years into a major religious celebration. It didn’t hurt that often the date coincided with Lent, with a reprieve being allowed for the day from the 40 days fasting and abstinence, including allowing the drinking of alcohol, As a result the drinking of ale became a tradition for the day.
- The day became a public holiday in Ireland but pubs had to remain closed because the drinking had gotten out of hand. That law was repealed only in the 1970’s.
- In the mid-1990s the Irish government began a campaign to use Saint Patrick's Day to showcase Ireland and its culture
- There have been comments by Christian leaders in Ireland against the increasing secularisation of St Patrick’s Day. In 2007 one Irish cleric, Father Twomey, stated that "it is time to reclaim St Patrick's Day as a church festival". He questioned the need for "mindless alcohol-fuelled revelry" and concluded that, "it is time to bring the piety and the fun together".