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St. Patrick’s Day through the ages

Anne Krueger takes a look at the history of St Patrick’s Day.

Irish music, beer, shamrocks, a huge parade and green everywhere around- this is what people usually associate with Saint Patrick’s Day. However every story has its beginning. Let’s take a look behind the curtains of the celebrations of March 17th.

The intended meaning of the feast is a Christian festivity, celebrated in the Catholic Church. Until the 5th century, Ireland was a pagan country. It was the holy Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who is said to have converted the Irish to Christianity. In honor of this, we celebrate his death on March 17th of every year.

A lot of myths and legends have been told about the life and work of St. Patrick. The most notorious tells the story of him driving the snakes out of Ireland. This legend however is unlikely to be true considering that historians have claimed that the snakes didn’t return to Ireland after the last Ice Age. This story is rather a symbol of the end of paganism in Ireland.

In 1903, St. Patrick’s Day became a public holiday in Ireland. The first official secular celebrations took place in the US in the 18th century. Since then, the day is celebrated by Christian and non-Christian people to embrace Irish culture. Everywhere around the world, huge parades and celebrations are taking place.

Traditionally, many people wear shamrocks for the celebration, arising from the story in which St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the pagan Irish. The three-leaved plant should symbolize the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. During the years the shamrock established to a national symbol to the Irish.

In 1995, the Irish Government of Ireland established a St. Patrick’s Festival, wanting “to develop a major annual international festival around the national holiday over which the ‘owners’ of the festival, the Irish people, would stand proud.”

As stated on www.stpatricksday.ie, “ St. Patrick’s Festival brings the nation alive, and promises six lively days and nights of free celebrations and encompasses a feeling of what it means to be or just feel Irish.”

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