A common Irish quote reads, “Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes…That’s the Irish for You.”
But, what’s the deal with St. Patrick’s Day?
Just about every American celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, Irish or not. The holiday has also become an increasingly popular event across college campuses. But can people answer the question, “What does this holiday even stand for?”
Saint Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint and is credited with bringing Christianity to the country. March 17 marks his death in the 5th century. The day was distinguished as a Roman Catholic celebration where everyone would dance, drink and feast on traditional Irish cuisine.
When the Great Potato famine struck Ireland in 1845, roughly 1 million Irish residents immigrated to America. The Irish fought against negative stereotypes that surrounded them. But, they soon realized that their growing population numbers gave them political power, which led to the idea of “green machine.” St. Patrick’s Day celebrations began to be a symbol of their strength and unity.
So, what do leprechauns and shamrocks have to do with anything?
Leprechauns originated from the Celtic belief in fairies, who had magical powers, usually associated with trickery. Interestingly, Leprechauns have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. The cheerful Leprechaun was an American invention from a Disney movie, and quickly became a symbol for Ireland and the holiday.
The shamrock is a plant that symbolized Ireland’s nationalism and pride during the 17th century. The Irish began to wear this plant when the English became to seize their land, in order to promote their unhappiness with the English rule. According to legend, St. Patrick used this plant to explain the trinity when he brought Christianity to the Irish.
The shamrock continued to be a symbol of the Irish culture and is still used to represent the country and St .Patricks day.
St. Patricks day is this Saturday and, without a doubt, the campus will be filled with students wearing shirts that say “Kiss me I’m Irish,” all sorts of beads and funny hats that resemble shamrocks.
It’s comforting to know that this holiday represents a long history of national unity and heritage, not just national drinking.