What is Saint Patrick’s Day All About?

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Michael Stroup, Reporter

       Saint Patrick’s Day, or the feast of Saint Patrick, is an international Irish holiday celebrated on March 17, commemorating the life and death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

   Saint Patrick, or Maewyn Succat, was a Romano-British man during the 5th century B.C. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Catholic church. When Maewyn was 16 years old, Irish pirates kidnapped him and brought him to Gaelic Ireland to be enslaved. While a shepherd slave, Maewyn was believed God spoke to him, forgiving him and offering the opportunity to repent. After six years of slavery, Maewyn heard a supernatural voice telling him he would soon go home, escaping Ireland and returning to Britain around 432. 

   After returning, Maewyn studied Christianity extensively. He experienced a vision of Saint Victoricus giving him a letter from the Irish people asking him to return to Ireland. Returning to Ireland as a missionary, Maewyn changed his name to Patricius. The locals of Ireland were unwelcoming of Patrick, but he still attempted to convert the pagan Irish people to Christianity, recording his travels in the Declaration

   In his travels he describes how he “baptized thousands of people” and his interactions with the Irish. From these stories, legends about Patrick surfaced, like how Patrick used three leaf clovers to represent the Holy Trinity. Another legend describes how Patrick was explaining Christ to a pagan tribe when he planted his walking stick and it grew roots. Another widely known legend of Patrick is how he banished all snakes from Ireland, which is partially false as Ireland historically had no snakes to begin with, but this legend is likely an analogy for Patrick ridding Ireland of sin which is symbolized by serpents. 

   This religiously founded holiday is celebrated in major cities in the U.S. and abroad with large, elaborate parades, with some of the first St. Patrick’s Day parades being held in Boston and New York in the 1700’s. In Chicago, the city even dyes the entirety of the Chicago River green in honor of the holiday. Unfortunately this year though, due to the increasing threat of the Coronavirus, the St. Patrick’s Day parades in Dublin, Ireland and Boston, Mass. have been canceled. 

   St. Patrick’s Day is not without criticism however. People often criticize St. Patrick’s Day as less of a day celebrating Irish heritage and culture and more of an excuse to publicly drink for an entire day. The celebration stereotypically portrays the Irish as drunkards and rough-housers. Another critique of St. Patrick’s Day is the amount of commercialization of the holiday outside of Ireland where people pretending to be Irish are often referred to as “Plastic Paddies.” 

   A few GM students and faculty come from some form of Irish descent like freshman Bella Barnhart who commented, “I am very proud of my Irish heritage.” GM librarian Alicia Terrill said “I think it’s extra fun around St. Patrick’s day; it’s not something that I would go around and tell everybody, but I’m happy to be Irish and it’s kind of fun to have a day that celebrates that.” Whether Irish or not, hopefully those celebrating this year will gain the luck o’ the Irish.