St. Patrick’s Day: Delve into Irish culture with the saint of Emerald Isle

Girl with red hair in traditional Irish dress in dark blue

An Irish dancer at the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco. Photo by Mark, courtesy of Flickr

TUESDAY, MARCH 17: Tender corned beef, cold brews and plenty of green sweep across the globe today, as the world turns to the Emerald Isle for St. Patrick’s Day.

From New York City’s legendary parade to Dublin’s four-day festival; from Montreal’s shamrock pride to New Zealand’s green Sky Tower, there’s no shortage of Irish culture anywhere. This year, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is scheduled to spend St. Pat’s in Washington with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, discussing global issues and participating together in the annual Shamrock Ceremony. Elsewhere, the Irish and Irish-at-heart will be marching in parades, wishing on four-leaf clovers and remembering that early Christian saint known as St. Patrick.

A DREAM AND A SHAMROCK

The legendary patron saint of Ireland began life c. 385 CE, in Roman Britain. With a wealthy family whose patron was a deacon, St. Patrick led a comfortable life until his teenage years, when he was kidnapped and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. During his six years in Ireland, Patrick gained a deeper Christian faith. When he dreamed that God told him to flee to the coast, Patrick did so—and traveled home to become a priest. (Wikipedia has details.) Following ordination, however, another dream prompted Patrick to do what no one expected: to return to Ireland.

As a Christian in Ireland, Patrick worked to convert the pagan Irish. With a three-leaved shamrock in hand to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans, St. Patrick converted many. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 at Downpatrick.

PATRICK: IN THE CHURCH & AROUND THE WORLD

Surprisingly, the most widely known saint from Ireland was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church. Since no formal canonization process existed in the Church’s first millennium, St. Patrick was deemed a saint only by popular acclaim and local approval. Nonetheless, St. Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day by the early 17th century, observed by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Lutherans and members of the Church of Ireland. Today, countries the world over offer citizens and tourists Irish-themed foods, drinks and culture on March 17. Dances, processions, performances and more illustrate the vibrancy of Irish history—all set against the very Irish color of green.

Skillet pan with pot pie vegetables and meat in gravy and potatoes braised and mashed on top

Beef and lamb shepherd’s pie for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo by Dennis Wilkinson, courtesy of Flickr

RECIPES, CRAFT IDEAS AND MORE

Who doesn’t dream of hearty Irish stews, hot Reuben sandwiches and cold drinks on St. Patrick’s Day? Get into the Irish spirit with these recipe ideas (and some crafts, to boot):

  • A plethora of easy-to-follow recipes, from brisket to soda bread, is at AllRecipes.
  • Kids can get into the spirit of the Irish with craft ideas from PBS and Parenting.com.
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