Hip Hip Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day

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Stephanie Mullen, Staff Writer

This Friday, March 17th, we will be celebrating the annual Feast of Saint Patrick, more commonly known as St. Patrick’s Day. But do you ever wonder why we celebrate the way we do for the holiday? Why green is so iconic? And how exactly St. Patrick banished snakes from the emerald isle as legend claims he did? Well, hopefully this article will enlighten you.

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We eat soda and snake bread and also make corned beef and cabbage.”

— Kat Smith

But what even is St. Patrick’s Day?

The holiday commemorates the traditional death date of the patron saint of Ireland (March 17, 461), who was credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people. It should also be made clear that, no, St. Patrick did not in fact banish snakes from the Emerald Isle into the sea with a sermon. But if you’re a fan of historical myths, feel free to believe so. However, the Isle is completely free of snakes, but that is just because it always has been.

Originally, Ireland was covered in ice and was far too cold for serpents. It’s also important to point out the Ireland is an island, completely surrounded by water. Snakes had no way of getting on the island due to basically a geographical barrier. According to History.com, the snake tale was likely an allegory for how he drove out the Pagan ideology, not literal snakes.

Second, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. Yes, you read that correctly. St. Patrick was actually born in Great Britain and lived there until about the age of 16 when he was taken captive by Irish raiders that attacked his family’s residence. Afterwards, he spent six entire years in captivity working in fields, such as a shepherd. In this time, he became a devout Christian and dreamed of converting the Irish people. He escaped Ireland after these six years only to come back as a missionary, following what he believed to be the voice of an angel. After this period he studied for fifteen years to become a priest, then he began converting many Irish people from paganism to Christianity.

But how did this translate into the modern St. Patrick’s Day that we all know and love?

Well, let me just make it clear that the Irish loved their legends and myths, so it’s not surprising that over time they made up a myth about St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. As far as the overwhelming green everywhere? It likely has to do with all the agricultural green in Ireland, because, fun fact, St. Patrick’s actual followers wore blue.

There are many ways that the past has become distorted into the holiday we celebrate today. In modern times most families,  especially ones of Irish descent like that of mine or Kat Smith’s , a GCHS student who shares this about her family’s celebration, “we drink soda and eat snake bread, corned beef, and cabbage. These are all  traditional Irish meal.

Do you have a St. Patrick’s day tradition or belief?