Teaching More Than Leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day
Sure and begorrah, leprechauns are a bit of fun, but there’s more to St. Paddy’s Day than the wee folk. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. For over 1000 years, the people of Ireland have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, observing a feast to celebrate his life on the anniversary of his death, every year on March 17th.
Originally, cabbage and Irish bacon, today it’s corned beef, Irish soda bread and potatoes for modern St. Patty’s Day celebrations. America has celebrated St. Patrick’s day since 1737. With a current tally of 35 million residents of Irish ancestry, the “new world” boasts an Irish population seven times greater than the entire country of Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Childhood
It’s believed he was not born in Ireland but rather in Britain or Scotland around 390 A.D. He was raised, for a time, in Wales. His British name was Maewyn Succat. Since Rome occupied England at the time, his Romanized name was Patricius, later known as Patrick. Along with other children, he was kidnapped, taken to Ireland, sold as a slave and held there for the next seven years.
St. Patrick’s Ministry
It is said that while in Ireland, Patrick saw God in a dream, telling him to escape onto a ship. He did escape to Europe and joined a French monastery for 12 years. Another dream sent him to teach the Irish about God. He brought Christianity to the pagans in Ireland, including the royal family. This led to the establishment of many monasteries, churches and schools. The druidic priests and officials, upset, arrested Patrick many times, but he continually escaped. This led the people to believe God had sent him.
St. Patrick’s Day Today
Not only the church celebrates St. Patrick, the secular world enjoys “being Irish” for one day each year.
- Why Green? – Originally, the color blue was associated with the day, but it was changed to green, perhaps since the nickname of Ireland is “The Emerald Isle.” Green is also a prominent color on the Irish flag.
- Shamrocks – The national flower and emblem of Ireland, shamrocks naturally have three leaves, said to represent hope, faith and love. If you find a four-leaf clover, the fourth leaf is luck. Chances of finding one is one in 10,000.
- Green River? – Many Irish immigrants settled in Chicago, IL. Since 1962, the Windy City has dyed the Chicago River bright green every St. Patrick’s Day. The color lasts through the daylight hours, during a celebration full of parades and other events.
A great way for you and your children to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is to delve into Ireland’s history. From there, it’s a natural progression to the histories of Britannica, Rome and beyond. National and religious holidays are a perfect way to promote curiosity and independent study into history and expanding their cultural awareness.