What a saint!
March 17 is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, according to the Catholic Church. Born around 385 to British parents, Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave when he was a teenager. He later escaped, and became a bishop; in 433, the Church then tasked Patrick with returning to Ireland and converting its people to Catholicism. He’s typically credited with Christianity’s arrival in the country, and is a symbol of Irish national identity.
From sea to shining sea
While St. Patrick’s Day is observed as a religious holiday in Ireland, it’s been a day to celebrate secular Irish heritage in the United States for centuries. After all, 34.5 million Americans have Irish ancestors! New York held the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762, honoring Irish soldiers in what was then the British military. Over 100 parades are still organized across the country today, and the Chicago River is even dyed green in celebration.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three leaves of shamrocks to explain the Catholic Church’s concept of the Holy Trinity. As a result, the plant is representative of both St. Patrick, and Irish heritage in general. Despite the plant’s green color, historians say that St. Patrick’s color was actually a pale blue. That’s not what stuck through the ages, though: During the 1798 Irish Rebellion, wearing green clovers as a symbol of Irish nationalism began, and green’s been associated with Irish pride ever since.
Green eggs and ham
Besides wearing green, making a festive dinner is the easiest way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Traditionally, Lenten prohibitions were waived on this saint’s day, so Irish families would feast on meat-filled meals, like this beef stew with bacon. Moms and dads might want to have a beer, too—because Lent’s dietary restrictions are waived, celebrating with a drink or two has been popular for hundreds of years.