About St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day observes of the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The holiday has evolved into a celebration of Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking and a whole lot of green.  While St. Patrick’s Day is now associated with wearing green, parades (when they’re not canceled) and beer, the holiday is grounded in history that dates back more than 1,500 years. The earliest known celebration was held on March 17, 1631, marking the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick in the 5th century.

Much of what is known about St. Patrick’s life has been interwoven with folklore and legend. Historians generally believe that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain (not Ireland) near the end of the 4th century. At age 16 he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold as a slave to a Celtic priest in Northern Ireland. After toiling for six years as a shepherd, he escaped back to Britain. He eventually returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.

St. Patrick

Among the legends associated with St. Patrick is that he stood atop an Irish hillside and banished snakes from Ireland—prompting all serpents to slither away into the sea. In fact, research suggests snakes never occupied the Emerald Isle in the first place. There are no signs of snakes in the country’s fossil record. And water has surrounded Ireland since the last glacial period. Before that, the region was covered in ice and would have been too cold for the reptiles.

Three-leaf clovers symbolize spring.

The shamrock, a three-leaf clover, has been associated with Ireland for centuries. It was called the “seamroy” by the Celts and was considered a sacred plant that symbolized the arrival of spring. According to legend, St. Patrick used the plant as a visual guide when explaining the Holy Trinity. By the 17th century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.

While people in Ireland had marked the birthday of St. Patrick since the 1600s, the tradition of a St. Patrick’s Day parade began in America and actually predates the founding of the United States.   Records show that a St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601 in a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The parade, and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration a year earlier were organized by the Spanish Colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur. More than a century later, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in Boston in 1737 and in New York City on March 17. Enthusiasm for the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City, Boston and other early American cities only grew from there.

Image result for photos of st. patricks day

The meal that became a St. Patrick’s Day staple across the country—corned beef and cabbage—was an American innovation. While ham and cabbage were eaten in Ireland, corned beef offered a cheaper substitute for impoverished immigrants. Irish-Americans living in the slums of lower Manhattan in the late 19th century and early 20th, purchased leftover corned beef from ships returning from the tea trade in China. The Irish would boil the beef three times—the last time with cabbage—to remove some of the brine.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

This year there will be no parades, no gatherings in bars to drink green beer, and no traditional Irish festivities to celebrate the day.  It will be quite and somber day this year due to the Coronavirus global shut downs.  So, in lieu of the normal fun and frolicks, make up your own ways to celebrate the day and do your best to enjoy.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  I will do my best to make some Irish food, but it all depends on what is available.  I will certainly have my green creative thinking cap on though, and I will still come up with something delicious.


Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for over 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

20 thoughts on “About St. Patrick’s Day”

  1. We live just south of St Augustine, and the city does indeed have a massive St Patrick’s Day celebration (not this year) that has been going on literally for centuries. I think in Ireland, at least, the feast of St Patrick is treated as a holy day of obligation, so not completely a bacchanalian event like we do here. But I could be wrong.

    Interestingly enough, before St Patrick evangelized Ireland, the Celts were accustomed to thinking of the divine in the style of a trinity. I’ve been reading this morning about all the deities in Celtic mythology that come in threes, like the Celtic battle-furies and Matronae (three mother figures who were venerated together, which appear in pre-Roman art all over Northern Europe).

    Some of my favorite childhood memories are of St Patrick’s Day. I have no idea why my parents were so invested in the holiday, but they went all-out every year for it. They religiously made corned beef and cabbage (really, they’d stock up on corned beef, so we were eating it for weeks after) and there were plenty of shenanigans to be had. My mother would even make me wear green costumes to elementary school. (My therapist says I am making terrific progress working through such trauma.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 🙂 🙂 You make me laugh. We need that these days. Thanks for all the history. I LOVE it!

      I am making some Guinness stew and some potato Brussels sprout cakes (like potato latkes). for tonight. My stew is cooking in the slow cooker as we “speak”.

      I went out to the store today, AND actually found plenty of potatoes, but it is so sad. it is like living in a ghost town. People had better wake up or our whole economy will be lost. I am getting scared, NOT about the virus, as you know, but about the economic devastation instead.

      Keep your wits about you and keep your sense of humor. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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