The History of St. Patrick’s Day

By Shannon Humiston

March 17th. The day for wearing green. The day for drinking green beer. The day for parades. The day where everyone is Irish. St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world by hundreds of thousands of people. Rick Alloway, an associate professor and general manager of KRNU and KRNU2 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, celebrates the day with soda bread, watching Irish movies with his wife, by listening to Celtic and Irish music, and playing it on the radio the week before the holiday. Alloway, like most Americans don’t know a great deal about the origin of the holiday. He assumes it started in Ireland and moved over to the United States. So what is this green holiday and why do we celebrate it?

Who was St. Patrick?

Born in Kilpatrick, Scotland, as Maewyn Succat in 387, he was kidnapped at the age of 16 by Celtic raiders to be sold as a slave in Ireland. It was during this time that he took up the name Patricius. He began to learn the Celtic culture and is said to have converted to Catholicism. St. Patrick then escaped Ireland after receiving a message from God. He later returned to Ireland after receiving a similar message from the people of Ireland. St. Patrick spent 30 years in Ireland where he converted over 135,000 people, established 300 churches, and consecrated 350 bishops. He is also to have banished the snakes from Ireland. However, there have never been any snakes in Ireland.

The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.

The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day.

It is believed that snakes could have been a metaphor for pagans or the devil. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461.

What is St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick’s Day started in Ireland as a Catholic holiday. It marks the day St. Patrick died. During the 17th century, the holiday became an official feast day. Today it is a national holiday in Ireland. Banks, schools, and federal offices are closed. In the United States it is seen as a secular celebration of Irish Culture.

Last summer, Alloway, led a group of UNL students on a study abroad trip to Ireland. It was there that the Irish people taught him that the holiday “is a bigger deal here, than it is over there.” The Irish people celebrate it on a large-scale, but mostly due to the tourists who come to Ireland for the holiday.

Why is St. Patrick’s Day celebrated on March 17?

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th to mark the day St. Patrick died. It is also held on the day, because Luke Wadding, a 17th century scholar, fought to have the day become a feast day in honor of St. Patrick.

When did the St. Patrick’s Day tradition begin?

In, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was made an official holiday in 1903 and the first festival was held in 1996.

In the United Sates, the holiday was first celebrated in 1737. The event was to celebrate and honor the homeland of Irish immigrants. The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized the celebration. Since then the holiday has been the cause for hundreds of parades, the earliest being in New York in 1762.

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States?

The day is a day to celebrate Irish heritage. It is spent feasting on traditional Irish foods and celebrating Ireland.

“It is a chance to bask in the pride of our Irish heritage.” Alloway said.

Green Guinness beer to celebrate St. Patrick bringing alcohol to Ireland.

Green Guinness beer to celebrate St. Patrick bringing alcohol to Ireland.

Why do we where green on St. Patrick’s Day?

There are many reasons as to why green is worn on the 17th, one being that the color green made you invisible to leprechauns. This would help you to avoid being pinched by the creatures. Another theory is to celebrate the coming of spring and Irish culture. No matter the reason, be sure to wear green or somebody is going to pinch you.

What are some St. Patrick’s Day traditions in the United States?

There are many traditions that take place on St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, some include green beer, green rivers, and of course, a green parade. In Chicago and Indianapolis, the river and canals are dyed green to celebrate the holiday. Seattle paints the traffic lines on the parade route green. The White House, along with many cities, dyes their fountains green. In Suffolk County, outside of Boston, schools and offices are closed for the holiday. There are even a few smaller traditions that take place. In Blue Springs, Missouri, just east of Kansas City, holds the world’s smallest St. Patrick’s Day parade. It goes from one side of Main Street to the other.

Alloway shared some of his favorite traditions for the holiday. He enjoys soda bread, although he hasn’t had time recently.

“I enjoy Irish baking, but it’s been a while.”

Being a radioman, Alloway said he plays Celtic and Irish music the week before the holiday on his A Capella show for KRNU.

The week before, Alloway also enjoys watching Irish movies with his wife. They kicked off the week with Waking Ned Devine. Alloway enjoys the Irish movies because they show a diversity of age and “are not shy in casting an older cast.”

St. Patrick’s day may have started as a religious holiday and to some it still is, but to many more it is a celebration of a country and the heritage it has shared with the world.


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