St. Patrick's Day is celebrated around the world on March 17, but if you think it's all about green beer and leprechaun, you've been St. Patrick's Day-ing wrong.
What is St. Patrick's day for, anyway? I mean, what are we celebrating?
St. Patrick's day is actually the observance of St. Patrick's death. Saint Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. The holiday originally began as a holy feast, but throughout the years it has evolved into something much wilder, and much more, well, green and alcoholic.
Originally, it was a day where people would gather with friends and family, and go to mass, eat and drink, and maybe go to a parade. Here are some of the traditions and customs that still are alive and well in Ireland today.
In Ireland, they wear shamrocks.
Instead of wearing something green, which has been popularized in the US as the way to not get pinched on March 17, the Irish actually wear a bunch of shamrocks on their right breast (as seen on Kate Middleton, above). These shamrocks are blessed at Church services all across Ireland by Bishops. This religious custom is called the Blessing of the Shamrock.
In Ireland, they go to church.
Most Christians living in Ireland go to Church on St. Patrick's Day, which is also known as a Holy Day of Obligation. This is especially known to be a family affair, with members each wearing good clothing. After Church, families go home and enjoy a spread of roast with vegetables, and watch global St. Patrick's Day parades.
Parades weren't a thing until 1995.
Yep, parades somehow found their way to other areas of the world before it even began in Ireland. The first parade held for St. Patrick's Day was in New York City in 1766, and it was not until 1995 when the Irish government gave the green light for the country to hold its own festivals and parades. The festival was originally started as a way to boost tourism, and now Ireland holds a five-day festival full of art, music, fun fairs, parades, and all kinds of family-fun festivities.
Green beer is undeniably an American invention.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but drinking green beer is NOT an Irish tradition. One of the theories behind this tradition is that it was a spin-off of the Irish tradition of dropping a shamrock into your beer and then drinking it for good luck (what?), but there was one incident in NYC in 1914 where the shamrock actually turned the beer green.
Another theory is that one St. Patrick's Day dinner in NYC in 1914, a coroner's physician named Dr. Burtin put some "wash blue" dye into his beer to make it green in celebration of the holiday. Either way, it stuck, but we can rest assured green beer was made in the USA.
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