Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
It is the day when most everyone wears green and claims to have a bit of Irish heritage. Just as I wondered about the history of Valentine’s Day, today got me thinking about why we celebrate this holiday, and why we do so in the way we do.
St. Patrick’s was an Irish priest and those in Ireland celebrated his feast for centuries. But the line between a religious celebration was blurred with the first St. Patrick’s Day parade, held in New York City in 1762. The Church declared the day to be a reprieve from the restrictions imposed during Lent, so the New Yorkers took advantage of the opportunity for celebration. The first parade became a vehicle for Irish soldiers who were members of the British Army, as a way for them to overcome homesickness and connect with each other. Over the years, the “parades became a display of solidarity and political strength as these often ridiculed Irish immigrants were frequently victims of prejudice.*”
Green is omnipresent on today’s feast day, but blue was the color originally associated with the holiday. Legend has it that those who were wearing green would be invisible to leprechauns, thus spared from their tendency to pinch people. More likely, green evolved from the day’s association with Ireland, also known as The Emerald Isle.
Whether you indulge in green beer, green donuts, cabbage with corned beef or any of the other traditional foods of this feast day, I hope you also go back to the core of the celebration and rally against prejudice, especially against those with low social status. May the luck of the Irish shine upon you as you take on that challenge.