It’s 9:30am and I’m starting my day with a nice hot shower- complete with a shower beer and a lather with my Irish Cream & Whiskey soap– before kicking off my celebration for my favorite holiday: St. Patrick’s Day. And even though this year we’re all celebrating at home taking account of social distancing rules, it’s still a celebration and a great reason to have a beer with friends (over FaceTime).
But why do we drink all day on St. Patrick’s Day? How did this tradition get started? We looked into it so you don’t have to. Here’s Dr. Squatch Shower Thoughts, St. Patrick’s Day edition.
Who Was St. Patrick of Ireland?
In order to understand the celebration as it is today, we need to first get to know St. Patrick himself. Interestingly enough, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish and his name wasn’t Patrick. He was actually born and raised in Britain during the 5th century and was named Maewyn Succat.
When he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped, taken to Ireland and forced into slavery where his primary job was tending to sheep. As you can imagine, he must have been very bored; this gave him ample time to think and reflect, and he turned to his Christian faith for support. After six years in captivity, he escaped back to Britain and rejoined his family.
Maewyn eventually became a Catholic priest and took the name Patrick. In his missionary work, he made it his goal to convert the Irish who enslaved him and spread Christianity throughout Ireland. He successfully converted most of the country to Catholicism, making him the Patron Saint of Ireland.
There isn’t a ton of documented information out there about St. Patrick, but there are plenty of legends about him. One legend claims that he brought 33 men back from the dead; Another legend says that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea.
But the most popular legend – and the most relevant- is the one of the shamrock. St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the idea of the Holy Trinity.
St. Patrick's Day Celebrations Throughout History
The First Celebration
St. Patrick’s Day originated in the 17th century as a religious “Feast Day” to honor the Saint on the anniversary of his death. This Feast Day falls within the Lenten season (the six week period leading up to Easter). During this period, Christians fast and have to pledge to give something up- at the time, this was typically alcohol. However, on St. Patrick’s Day, Christians in Ireland could put their Lenten restrictions on hold to allow for feasting and excessive drinking – on this day only!
Irish Patriotism in America
Irish patriotism of American immigrants heightened in the late 1700’s, which allowed the holiday to evolve to become a secular celebration of Irish heritage.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762. Now, the party continues every year throughout the country.
The Celebration Today
Today, there are anywhere from 70-80 million people in the world claiming their Irish heritage- 33 million of those people live in the U.S. But even those with no Irish in their blood get into the spirit of the celebration.
There’s no holiday as fun for adults as St. Patrick’s Day. It starts with a parade (who doesn’t love a parade?), followed by a meal of corned beef and cabbage, with bagpipes and traditional music playing throughout the day. It’s the only holiday where you can swill all the green beer and Guinness that you can handle! It’s estimated that the world drinks 34 million pints of Guinness on this holiday. There’s no shame in drinking a little more than usual on this day- letting loose is a part of the celebration!
This year, since we’re celebrating from home, you can still get into the spirit by drinking your favorite beer while listening to some traditional Irish music.
Get It Right: Is It Paddy or Patty?
St. Patrick’s Day is often shortened to St. Paddy’s Day. Patrick is the English form of the Gaelic word Pádraig, which is shortened to Paddy, not to be confused with Patty, which is the nickname for Patricia, or the hamburger found on your Big Mac.
However, in the 18th century the name “Paddy” was considered a disparaging name for an Irishman. So, if you want to be politically correct and not offend anyone, it’s best to just call it St. Patrick’s Day.
My Shower is Getting Cold
Although St. Patrick’s Day began to honor the man it was named for, today it’s truly a celebration of proud Irish heritage. Sláinte!
“May the winds of fortune sail you, may you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other guy who says, ‘this drink’s on me.'”
– An Irish Toast – Author Unknown