St. Patrick, snakes, green and getting pinched
St. Patrick’s Day — observed every March 17 — started as a religious holiday, but has grown into a celebration of Irish culture.
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain in the fourth century and was sent to Ireland to work when he was 16 years old. Patrick started teaching others about Christianity and is said to have converted many of the country’s residents to Christianity. St. Patrick’s Day is the day Patrick supposedly died.
St. Patrick was a real person, but some of the traditions associated with him and the holiday are myths. You might see the four-leaf clovers among St. Patrick’s Day decor, but, according to legend, Patrick used a three-leaf clover, or shamrock, as part of his teachings.
St. Patrick is credited with chasing all the snakes out of Ireland. Snakes never actually lived in the country. Many animals found throughout Europe and North America don’t live on the island of Ireland — the ocean keeps them away.
Ireland is an island — green with leafy trees and grassy hills — and sometimes called the Emerald Isle. And today you’re supposed to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But the color originally associated with St. Patrick was blue. Green was introduced to St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the 18th century, when the green shamrock became a national symbol. Because of the shamrock’s popularity and Ireland’s landscape, the color stuck to the holiday.
Green is the color mythical leprechauns wear in modern portrayals, but they were first described as wearing red.
Leprechauns are actually one reason you’re supposed to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day — or risk getting pinched. Folklore says wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, which like to pinch anyone they can see.
Some people also think sporting the color will bring good luck, and others wear it to honor their Irish ancestry. No wonder green decorations can be seen all over — the Chicago River in Illinois is even dyed green each year to celebrate the holiday.
Another tradition includes many Irish-American people in the United States eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. People also gather to watch parades of traditional Irish dancers and musicians as they march through city streets. However you celebrate, here’s hoping it’s a lucky day.
Source: National Geographic