Dye the river green, get yourself a beer, and watch out for the sneaky Leprechauns – it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day! As we delve into the history of particular holidays as the year goes along, we learn about the significance of the original event(s), as well as how traditions emerged over time. Over the past few years, I witnessed an ultra-modern interpretation of St. Patrick’s Day, but secretly wondered how many individuals truly knew what they were celebrating.
This is certainly not to criticize the celebration in any which way, but simply to notice how traditions change over time regardless of their origins. Similar to the notion of Santa Claus, new customs have emerged at certain instances in time that add to a certain holiday’s celebration. Reindeer, gifts, and a sleigh were not initially associated with Saint Nicholas, but have become over time. So I ask to the inherent balance of our Universe, if something is added, must something be taken away?
Patrick was born in 386 A.D., in Britain, to a family of religious prominence. Just after his 16th birthday, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and made a slave on the West Coast of Ireland. He remained there for years until in a dream Patrick had, where he claimed to receive a message from God to flee captivity and return to Britain, which he did. After his return, Patrick devoted his time towards studying to become a Priest.
Around 432 A.D., St. Patrick returned to Ireland, where he was once held hostage, this time on his own free will, in attempt to convert the pagans of Ireland. His most infamous technique in accomplishing this task was by relating the shamrock with the concept of Trinity. St. Patrick remained in Ireland for the next thirty years, until he died on March 17th, 461 A.D.
Today, St. Patrick is possibly the most recognized patron Saint of Ireland. His Martyrdom is celebrated publicly in Ireland (both North and South), Newfoundland & Labrador, and Montserrat. It is also widely celebrated in places of the Irish Diaspora, such as Canada, Argentina, and the United States. Additionally, certain legends have been associated with St. Patrick that do not have a historical basis. The most prominent of these is that it was St. Patrick who rid of all the snakes in Ireland. However, the island separated from the European continent at the end of an Ice Age, so it is unlikely that snakes ever resided in Ireland. In addition to this legend, believe it or not, blue was the color first associated with St. Patrick rather than green!
Thus, we must return to the initial question. When a holiday that commemorates a religious man born in Britain, kidnapped, and then driven to convert the Irish people based off of the image of his captors becomes associated with all things Irish, as well as drinking and the color green, it would appear that a great deal has been lost over time. So, do you think that while it is very important to remember the roots of a celebration, the celebration in itself is what matters most? Or do you perhaps deem that a celebration is held for a particular occasion, and if the true nature of this occasion is unknown, then the celebration lacks a true point?
My personal view is that we should always be aware of the history of a celebration, while keeping in mind its current significance.
J. Roslyn Antle
The 7witches Coven