Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is an annual cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. He died in the year 460 A.D. The day was made an official feast day in the early 17th century and commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. At age 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. They took him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. He turned to religion for help and became a devout Christian. In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics. Today, the holiday widely honors the heritage and culture of Saint Patrick and the Irish people. Many other cultures across the globe celebrate Saint Paddy’s Day, as it is so nicknamed. Folks often gather to attend parades, festivals, and parties. Many indulge in Irish culinary delights, such as boxty, colcannon, or corned beef and cabbage. (Yes, in many places, the Catholic church lifts its ban on eating meat during lent for this celebration.) Folks also enjoy dressing in and decorating with green, a color long symbolic of Ireland’s identity. Here are some clever ways to decorate your home for Saint Patrick’s Day:
- Decorate with shamrocks, a symbol of Ireland that goes back to the holiday’s religious roots. Legend shares that when St. Patrick arrived in Ireland, he used the shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity. Create your own shamrock garland using ribbon, string, or twine and sturdy green glitter paper. Simply create a shamrock template out of cardboard. Trace the shamrock shape onto the back of the glitter paper. Then cut out the shape. Repeat as often as needed. Hole punch the sides of each clover to string them. Make sure they are evenly spaced, leaving some room on each end for hanging.
- Saint Patrick viewed the rainbow as a representation of God’s promise to never destroy the earth with a flood. Therefore, rainbows have become symbols of luck and celebration on Saint Patrick’s Day. Rainbows are often seen coming out of pots of gold. According to Irish folklore, fairies put a pot of gold coins at the end of each rainbow with leprechauns guarding it. Buy a plastic black or green cauldron at a local party store. Blow up assorted color balloons to reflect the colors of the rainbow. Tie them together with string to form a balloon bouquet and let them cascade from the cauldron.
- Leprechauns are tied to popular Irish folklore. It is believed that wearing green makes people invisible to them. If not, leprechauns are said to pinch everyone they see. Have some fun creating a unique tablescape using a combination of green linens, topiaries, leprechaun statues, and some fun DIY decorations, including painted rocks. For this craft, gather small rocks of assorted sizes. Clean them thoroughly and let them dry. Paint them green and gold. Once dry, dip them in glue and add sparkles. Let them dry again before adding them to the tablescape.
In the U.S., people of all cultures enjoy celebrating Irish traditions by decorating using great ideas like those above, wearing green, and by attending parties, parades, and the like. However, the holiday is largely steeped in lore. Contrary to popular belief, Saint Patrick wasn’t born in Ireland and his birth name wasn’t Patrick. It’s believed that he was born in Scotland or Wales as Maewyn Succat. Later, after becoming a priest, he changed his name to Patricius. Saint Patrick was credited for many things, including driving snakes out of Ireland. However, this was highly unlikely as Ireland lacked snakes due to the surrounding seas. More accurately, Saint Patrick was instrumental in spreading Christianity and establishing monasteries, churches, and schools, thus he played an important role in the religious history of Ireland. What began as a holy celebration ultimately expanded into a secular one, now celebrated by many to honor Irish culture. Though not an official federal holiday in the U.S., one might wonder what Saint Patrick would think of the celebrations if he were alive today.