Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St Patrick's Day 2016! Here's everything you need to know about the Irish event and how to celebrate

Every year, millions of people don ginger wigs, green jackets and shamrock-adorned top hats.
They then crowd into bars across the world, where they down pints of Guinness from as early as 9 or 10am.  They do so to mark St Patrick’s Day , an annual event that celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish.

On the day, many will conveniently remember that their great-great-great-great-grandparents moved over from Ireland centuries ago.

Others, meanwhile, will try to impress fellow revellers by putting on a fake Irish accent and drunkenly wishing them: “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya.”

But why do we celebrate St Patrick’s Day? And how is it observed by people across the globe?
Here, we provide a guide to the event, which takes place on March 17 each year.

What is St Patrick’s Day?

St Patrick’s Day was originally a religious feast day for St Patrick – the patron saint of Ireland and a Christian missionary.  St Patrick, the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, was actually not born Irish but is believed to have grown up in Roman Britain.  However, he is said to have spent many years in Ireland converting the pagans to Christianity before his death on March 17 in the fifth century.

Despite its origins, St Patrick’s Day has since grown into a global celebration of Irish culture, with festivities (usually, involving a fair bit of drinking) held throughout the world.

On the day, millions of people dress as leprechauns (bearded fairies from Irish folklore), consume green-coloured food and drink and attend public parades.

Many also wear shamrocks – three-leaved plants which St Patrick himself is said to have used to explain the Holy Trinity of God to the pagan Irish.  The day is celebrated as a national holiday in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  However, it is also widely observed across the globe, especially in the UK, America, Canada and Australia.  On March 17, the Lenten restrictions on eating meat and drinking alcohol are relaxed.

Who is St Patrick?
St Patrick is believed to have been born into a wealthy, religious family in Roman Britain in the fourth century.  But at the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Gaelic Ireland as a slave to tend and herd sheep.  During his captivity, he is said to have prayed to God more than 100 times a day.

He also had a dream about God, in which he later said he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast, where a ship would be waiting.  The dream led to St Patrick escaping from his captors and making his way back home, where he became a priest, like his grandfather.  The young man is then believed to have returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary after experiencing another vision.

According to tradition, he converted thousands of the pagan Irish to Christianity in the northern half of the country.  He would use shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to those he preached to, resulting in the widespread presence of the plants on St Patrick’s Day.

He is also said to have performed miracles and built churches across Ireland.
St Patrick died at Saul – where he is believed to have begun his missionary work - and was later buried at Downpatrick, County Down. After his death on March 17, 461, he was the subject of many legends and became the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

PS... It’s St Paddy, NOT Patty

Believe it or not, some people incorrectly refer to St Patrick’s Day as ‘St Patty’s Day’, instead of ‘St Paddy’s Day’. As many angry Irishmen have previously pointed out, the term ‘Paddy’ is derived from the Irish name, Pádraig. In contrast, ‘Patty’ is typically used to refer to a burger – or a similar flattened cake of food. So if you’re trying to refer to the Irish celebration and not burgers or Patty from The Simpsons, we’d suggest steering clear of ‘St Patty’s Day’.

Why Leprechauns?
Leprechauns are diminutive fairies from Irish folklore.
Nowadays, they are typically represented as mischievous creatures who dress in green, sport ginger beards and hide pots of gold.  However, they were not always depicted in this way – with early tales describing their clothing as ‘red’ and ‘laced with gold’.
If you catch one of the wrinkled fairies, it is said that they must lead you to their treasure and may also grant you three wishes.  Revellers tend to dress up as leprechauns on St Patrick’s Day because of the creatures’ iconic status and eye-catching appearance.

Those who choose not to may simply wear green – a colour that has been associated with Ireland and St Patrick’s Day since the mid-17th century.

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