St. Patrick's Day falls on March 17. It is a holiday that combines religion and culture. On the one hand people remember the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and on the other Gaelic origins of those lands. It is traditionally celebrated with food, music and beer and the color that should not in any way be missing is, of course, green.
According to a popular legend, this is the day when the winter was considered past and people could start sowing the fields. The important dates of agricultural cycles were considered pagan festivals, and were eventually included in the Christian calendar. In contemporary neo-druidic traditions the Spring Equinox was called Alban Eiler.
The Spring equinox festival of Ostara, Alban Eiler was celebrated, when the day and night were in perfect balance. This day was celebrated in the cycle of the seasons between Imbolc and Beltane. People used to sow in the ground in front of a hazelnut tree. If the hazelnut burgeoned within Lughnasadh, it was considered a good omen for the birth of healthy, strong and numerous children.
It was the moment when the whole nature carried a message of renewal and awakening after the long winter nights. It was therefore a kind of New Year. It was a festival that celebrated the fertility of the earth and had a special value especially in the Mediterranean where the return of warm weather and the renewal of nature was evident.
In this day, ritual fires were lit on the hills and according to tradition the longer they remained lit, more fruitful would be the earth. In this time were usually irrigated fields, while the Druids, taking advantage of the perfect match between solar and night hours celebrated their rites. The sacred plant of the Spring Equinox was the shamrock and clover, associated with triskele, the sacred wheel with four arms, while the four-leaf varieties represented the Celtic cross, the sun gear, the magic circle of the four directions.
The shamrocks or clovers are an important part of the symbolism attached to St. Patrick. Legend has it that St. Patrick, to convert pagan polytheists to Catholic Celtic, took one of the clovers that abounded in the island and pointing out the three leaves of the plant explained the mystery of the Holy Trinity. But the ancient Celtic Druids already considered the clover a sacred plant for its triad of leaves, since for them the 3 was a mystical number.
This festival celebrated the warmth and healing power of the sun, the greening of the earth and the birth of new life in the spring. As with other ancient seasonal festivals, this day was absorbed by the Christian church, and associated with the Christian saints. It seems that the real name of Saint Patrick was Maewyn Succat and was born in England. At the age of 16, he was converted to Christianity. Here he became a priest and, later, the second bishop of Ireland. He chose the Latin name of Patrick after he was ordained a priest.
What Saint Patrick found on arriving in Ireland is what we know as Celtic or Gaelic Ireland, a period dating back to 1600 BC. During this period, Ireland was a mosaic of clans and tribes organized around four historic provinces. Continually they vied for control of territory and resources like Laighin, Connachta, Al Mhumhain and Cúige Uladh.
These small independent kingdoms were denominated Tuah, and between them, Connacht and Ulster stood out. Its main activity consisted of the cattle ranch, but also some agriculture. By the seventh century all these territories were dominated by that of a supreme King who had no de facto power until the eleventh century. The language of the Irish was Irish Gaelic and until the year 400 their religion was Celtic paganism.
His opponents were the Druids who believed in pagan gods and the Pelagian heretics. However, St. Patrick continued to build Christian abbeys and churches and created a local clergy and several Christian communities, introduced Christianity to local elites and through monastic schools. Curiously, the Vikings between the 9th and 10th centuries attacked and settled in Ireland, which caused paganism in the area to revive during that brief period of time in an attempt to retake ancient customs.
However, after the passage of the Vikings these ideas did not prosper and perhaps they did not prosper because St. Patrick very skillfully introduced Christianity mingling with previous Irish customs and traditions. At first, Patrick's works were forgotten after his death, but the legend slowly began to grow around him.
History says that he led the snakes out of Ireland, but there were never any snakes in Ireland, as the icy ocean that surrounds Ireland kept the snakes away from her. The legend is born of the symbolic meaning of the serpent in Christian folklore, in which the serpent represented evil and the devil. History symbolized Saint Patrick expelling paganism from Ireland by converting people to Christianity.
St. Patrick was ordained a saint, and the celebration of his holiday began in Ireland in 1600. His holiday falls in the middle of Lent. During Lent, eating meat was forbidden for Catholics in Ireland. However, an exception was made on St. Patrick's Day. The Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day by drinking and eating bacon and cabbage.
During the 19th century, in the rebellion of the Irish against the English, the clover became a hallmark of Irish pride and acquired a strong political and social significance to the point that wearing the green became a custom by law. The elves are small beings no more than three feet tall, of a reserved, surly and solitary character, which are one of the Irish symbols par excellence. Shoemakers by profession, always dressed in green with a flashy hat and two gold coins tightly grasped in their hands. In one hand they carry a magic coin that, although worn, always reappears in the palm of the hand, the other coin becomes ashes when worn.
The choice of goblins as Irish symbol is that they were considered as the guardians of the treasures of the Fairies. The Leprechauns hide a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, rainbow changing it constantly to avoid being discovered. Tradition says that if you see one of these green elves do not lose sight of them so you will find the treasure at the end of the rainbow.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with spectacular parades and festivals where the green color invades cities like New York or Chicago, honoring the Irish blood that runs through the veins of many Americans. The first parade of St. Patrick's Day began in 1737 in Boston. In New York the first parade was celebrated in 1776, and still remains today the most spectacular parade of this celebration. Curiously it was not until 1995 that the first parade was held in Dublin, and indeed the reason for this Dublin festival was to attract tourism to the city.
St. Patrick's Day as it is celebrated today began with the Irish soldiers in America. They used that day to connect with their compatriots and remember their homeland. These parades did not appear in Ireland until 1840 and were organized by the organizations, which tried to keep the Irish away from drinking during St. Patrick's day.
Traditionally Irish families gathers around the table, who come in the morning to the traditional St. Patrick's Mass and, after the meal, gather around the TV to enjoy the St. Patrick parades through television. The menu consists of cabbage, Irish stew, potatoes with shallots and some delicious scones accompanied by Irish beer combined with the typical dishes such as bangers and mash of sausages and potatoes or Shepherd's Pie with potato flan and lamb. All is accompanied by traditional Celtic music that will make you take a journey back in time to discover the origins of the feast of St. Patrick.