THURSDAY, MARCH 17: Hope for some luck o’ the Irish today, as the world turns green in celebration for Saint Patrick’s Day! St. Patrick’s feast day may have originally been a religious holiday in the Catholic Church, but today’s festivities rarely resemble the original, pious observance: Eenormous parades, skies full of fireworks, bars chock-full of “Irish” drinkers and even green-dyed waterways are all a part of today’s St. Patty’s Day events. (For Irish history, recipes, an overview of modern traditions and more, click over to History.com.)
ENJOY St. Patrick’s
Christian leaders in Ireland have recently been expressing concern over the raucous parties thrown on St. Patrick’s Day, arguing that it’s time to bring the piety and fun together, again. One way to do that is to enjoy the traditional Gaelic prayer long associated with this saint. ReadTheSpirit published both a traditional English version of the prayer—and a version of the Breastplate turned into a hymn.
There’s a lot of accumulated lore—and confusion—about St. Patrick. He’s the best-known patron of Ireland, but he wasn’t actually born there; in the 4th century, St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. As part of a wealthy family whose patriarchs were deacons of the Church, St. Patrick was raised in an atmosphere of religious vocations. (Catholic.org has more.) While a teenager, though, St. Patrick was taken from his family and home by Irish raiders, and he spent the next several years in Ireland as a slave. (Wikipedia has details.) It was in captivity that St. Patrick developed his own religious identity, sometimes praying day and night while performing his daily tasks, and he later wrote that he’d had a dream in his early 20s in which God told him to flee from captivity and return to Britain. After becoming a bishop in Britain, St. Patrick reported having another dream that pointed him back in the direction of Ireland—although this time, he was to convert the native pagans. (Read on at AmericanCatholic.org.) He spent decades teaching Christianity to pagans—and anyone honoring him today can wear the shamrock, a contemporary symbol of his vocation in Ireland. According to legend, St. Patrick used shamrocks to help teach about the Christian Trinity.
Cook up corned beef, cabbage, soda bread with these recipes
In many parts of the world, the modern St. Patrick’s Day brings as much attention to the Irish nation and culture as it does to St. Patrick. (Cook up some corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread and green treats, courtesy of AllRecipes and Taste Of Home. For kid-friendly options, check out Family Fun, from Disney.)
The holiday has a huge impact! Since 1991, Congress proclaims that March is Irish-American Heritage Month for all Americans. In Ireland, the annual St. Patrick festival draws more than 1 million visitors. Montreal is home to the longest-running St. Patty’s parade. And, the Cathedral of St. Patrick in New York City is the largest Gothic Catholic cathedral in the U.S. (Kids can get in touch with the Irish with Kaboose.com.)
Despite the popularity of today’s green-centered events, not all are going on as planned: In New York, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is being cut short, ending just before the American Irish Historical Society. (The mayor explained that this was due to city budget cuts. Check out the story here.) Not too far from New York, in Hoboken, it’s been announced that next year’s parade will be on a weekday, in hopes of cutting down on the partying that leads to hundreds of citations and too many arrests each year. (Read more at NJ.com.)
(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)