A Date in the Irish Calendar – St. Patrick’s Day!

The powers that be are doing their very best to be upbeat today, on our biggest national festival. Instead of the usual craic on every main street in the country, they’ve put huge work and effort into a new six-day TV channel, St Patrick’s Festival TV (SPFTV). With a theme Dúisigh Éire! (Awaken Ireland!), Irish people are being called to “throw off the long, dark months and rise to embrace brighter days ahead”……. sure we’ll do our best!!!

Once again I’m falling back on better times and republishing a piece from 2019….

First published March 17th, 2019

Its March 17th and its a great day to be Irish!   Today we celebrate the arrival of Christianity into Ireland.   And what a celebration it is!  This festival is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other national day.  No matter where you are,  you’re bound to be near enough to an Irish pub so before you head off to ‘Drown the Shamrock’,  have a quick read below and arm yourself with an encyclopedic knowledge to impress your fellow revelers!

♣ Firstly, let’s get the spoilers out of the way ♣

♣ PATRICK was not his real name!  He was actually named Maewyn Succat and changed his name to Patricius after becoming a priest.  So we could be celebrating Maewyn’s Day!

♣ He wasn’t even IRISH!   He is thought to have come from either Scotland or Wales.

He banished all the SNAKES from Ireland – except that …… according to fossil records,  there never were any to begin with.   The snakes probably represent the pagans he converted to Christianity.

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♣ His colour was BLUE!   Sometime in the 19th century there was a shift towards green – Ireland’s nickname ‘The Emerald Isle’ and the green in our flag possibly had something to do with it.

♣ He was never even CANONIZED by the pope so his saintly status is suspect!

♣ LEPRACHAUNS have nothing to do with St. Patrick or his feast day!

♣ Irish people do not eat CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE on March 17th!  Nor are we partial to GREEN PINTS!

♣ Moving on the the Real Stuff ♣

♣ Who was he?  

He was born around 375AD and came from a relatively wealthy family.  Aged 16,  he was kidnapped,  brought to Northern Ireland and sold as a slave to herd sheep.  After his escape he returned home but later joined the priesthood and came back to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity.

Today,  there are sites all over the country associated with Patrick,  showing how far and wide he traveled while spreading his teachings.

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(At the Rock of Cashel,  Patrick converted King Aengus to Christianity)

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(Patrick fasted for 40 days on the top of Croagh Patrick in 441AD)

♣ Why March 17th.

It is believed to be the date of his death in 460AD.

♣ What’s the Shamrock about?

Patrick used the 3 leaf shamrock as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity.

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♣ A Global Phenomenon ♣

♣ The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held not in Ireland but in Boston in 1737.

♣ The largest annual parade is held in New York,  lasting up to 6 hours!  Apart from obvious centres of Irish community – UK,  USA,  Australia – there are parades as far flung as Moscow,  Buenos Aries and Seoul.   There’s been a parade in Tokyo since 1992.

♣ Since 1962,  Chicago has dyed its river for the occasion.  40 tons of dye is used to keep the river green for about 5 hours.

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♣ Perhaps prompted by Chicago’s green river,  Tourism Ireland came up with the simple but brilliant  phenomenon of Global Greening.  Over the past decade,  about 400 famous locations around the world have turned green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  The ever growing list includes:

Colosseum, Rome

Disneyland castle in Shanghai

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Table Mountain, Cape Town

Opera House, Sydney

Burj al Arab, Dubai

Sacre – Coeur,  Paris

Christ the Redeemer,  Rio

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(Expressway, Boston,  US)

♣ Irish government ministers use the opportunity to travel abroad and promote Irish enterprise and culture to key trading partners.  The most well known of these events is the exchange of shamrock between our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and the US President in the White House (apparently, immediately after the photo opportunity,  protocol demands that the shamrock be destroyed by the secret service!).

♣ It’s estimated that 5.5 million pints of Guinness are sold daily worldwide.  The figure rises to circa 13 million on March 17th!

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♣ St. Patrick’s Day at Home ♣

Of course,  there’s nothing like celebrating our national day in Ireland.   Growing up here,  it was a strict religious festival until the 1970’s.   We made or bought a badge and wore a sprig of shamrock and hopefully went to a parade after mass.  It was a dry holiday – yes – hard to believe that pubs were ever closed on St. Patrick’s Day!!

The religious element is now much diluted and has given way to a mainly secular celebration which has provided a great boost for tourism and the economy.  And while we Irish may roll our eyes at the green pints and dressed up leprachauns,  it’s still a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect upon our identity and to celebrate all good things Irish.

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In Dublin,  the 5 day festival includes  music,  céilí dancing,  free guided history walks,  singing workshops,  food fairs,  drama,  comedy and lots of craic!   The parade remains the focus of the celebration and an estimated 500,000 people fill the city centre on the 17th.   While Dublin may attract the biggest crowd,  there are festivities all over the country,  starting with a parade at 6.00am in Dingle!

♣ How to Drown the Shamrock ♣

As the day draws to an end-

Take a leaf from the sprig of shamrock you have been wearing all day.

Put it into the bottom of the final glass.

When you’ve toasted everyone,  take the shamrock from the glass and throw it over your left shoulder.

♣ A St Patrick’s Day Toast ♣

St. Patrick was a gentleman

Who through strategy and stealth

Drove all the snakes from Ireland,

Here’s a toasting to his health.

But not too many toastings

Lest you lose yourself and then

Forget the good St. Patrick

And see all those snakes again!

And finally,  one for all you fellow travelers today,  wherever you my be:

May the luck of the Irish

Lead to happiest heights

And the highway you travel

Be lined with green lights

Wherever you go and whatever you do,

May the luck of the Irish be there with you.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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48 thoughts on “A Date in the Irish Calendar – St. Patrick’s Day!

  1. Hi Marie,
    Just read your Paddy’s Day piece and enjoyed it. Keep up the good work and watch out I can see global domination in the offing.

    1. Thank you……
      ‘May you escape the gallows, avoid distress, and be as healthy as a trout’. ( An Irish Blessing for you today!!!)☘️

  2. Great been to Boston, almost all is Irish descent starting with the Kennedy’s lol! NY too and my little town in NJ Perth Amboy had a neighborhood called Dublin! So St Patrick we wait and have a pint!cheers

    1. We’ve been to Boston for New Year but I’d say its great for St. Patrick’s day….
      ‘Here’s to the health of your enemies’ enemies’. (An Irish Blessing for you today!!!!)☘️

    1. Ha!!!! We won’t let reality come between us and a good party!!!
      ‘May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past’.(An Irish Blessing for you today!!)☘️

  3. Happy St Patrick’s Day Marie! While you can’t party properly I hope you at least manage to toast the day and look forward to better celebrations next year ☘☘☘

    1. Thank you Sarah…. I’ll certainly toast the day though not in the usual style….
      ‘Bless you and yours,
      As well as the cottage you live in.
      May the roof overhead be well thatched,
      And those inside be well matched’. (An Irish Blessing for you today!)

  4. Thanks for telling us all things St. Patrick, Marie. We were fortunate enough to visit Croagh Patrick in 2017. We have to come back now while we can still climb to the top. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Hope all is well with you and your family. Allan

    1. That’s on my list for this year! I’ve booked a few days in Mayo for the end of June and hope to do the climb….
      ‘May you get all your wishes but one, so that you will always have something to strive for’ – an Irish Blessing for you today Allan!!!

  5. Enjoy the rest of the day and have a couple of jars with me this evening. Great post and good to dispel the myths – or some of them. I hope you don’t mind but I copied your balloons to add to my Irish wishes to my nephew who is currently working in Poland and having to self-isolate in a hotel room all by himself with food left outside the door of the room at night. Slainte!

    1. No prob at all – can’t actually remember where that is…a garland outside some pub….
      And especially for you today….’May your heart be light and happy, may your smile be big and wide, and may your pockets always have a coin or two inside!’

  6. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! It was interesting to read the history and how the day has changed so much over the years. I’m wearing green today:) Maggie

    1. Goodonya!! It was lovely to go out for a walk here and see everyone wearing green even if there wasn’t a lot happening….. The day has changed SO much… Its huge globally now. The news last night had greetings from world leaders and the lighting of public buildings worldwide – it really is extraordinary….
      ‘May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, and never catch up’ (An Irish Blessing for you! )☘️

  7. Don’t know how much of a music fan you are Marie (guessing plenty, you’re Irish after all!), but we’re having our St Patrick’s Day evening listening to the album “Celtic Tiger” by Ronan Hardiman. If you don’t know it, go download, play now, close your eyes and bring the Atlantic coast alive…! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

    1. You’re covering a lot of Irish history there! Its certainly a lovely way to celebrate the day. I like ‘The Vikings’……
      ‘May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch to your door, and happiness be your guest today and evermore’.- A blessing for you and yours!!☘️

  8. What a delightful post. I love info like this, so thank you. I’m off to have local dish with green spaghetti soon that is not very Irish. Meanwhile, nothing like a glass of Guinness in Dublin. Happy Maewyn’s Day, Marie.

    1. Green spaghetti – no … not very Irish but someone here will no doubt claim it as an Irish invention anyway!!!
      Imagine all the Maewyns that would have populated the world down the years!!😅And there’d be no Patricias either!

      I’ve been bestowing Irish blessings on everyone – here’s one for you!!
      ‘Here’s to eyes in your head and none in your spuds’. ☘️

    1. Thank you!!! Important to have all the facts!!!😅

      ‘May the most you wish for be the least you get’. – An Irish Blessing just for you!!!!☘️

    1. Hope there was more craic in Terryglass than in Shankill Inez!!
      I’m doling out blessings so here’s one for you….
      ‘May your feet never sweat,
      your neighbor gives you ne’re a treat.
      When flowers bloom, I hope you’ll not sneeze,
      and may you always have someone to squeeze!’😅 ☘️

  9. A bit late, but a good, informative and humorous piece Marie. I recall, many years ago, getting shamrock sent to us in Birmingham from relatives in Ireland and we’d proudly wear it to school. Not sure that happens these days.

    1. Didn’t see even one sprig of it on anyone local this year!!! I never even thought to go looking for some!!! Nowadays, the shops are full of regalia of course but we were reminiscing here about our badges – we’d buy them about a week beforehand and count down the days until we could wear them. That and the bit of shamrock and out to Mass. then home and we could ‘break’ Lent and eat sweets and chocolate!☘️

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