Friday, March 17, 2017

St Patrick's Day 2017: How to celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland By Juliet Eysenck

Photo Credit: The Telegraph
Erin go bragh! St Patrick's Day is being celebrated around the world today. But what is the celebration for, and what do we know about the man?

When is St Patrick's Day?

St Patrick's Day is celebrated annually on March 17. The day honours the patron saint of Ireland, but celebrations are held around the world. Since 1961, St Patrick has also been regarded as a patron saint of Nigeria, a country which is home to around 20 million Catholics. While many see St Patrick's Day as an excuse to drink endless pints of Guinness while wearing a green wig, there's a little more to it than that.

So who was St Patrick?

St Patrick was a real man who was born in around 385 AD. He may have been named Maewyn Succat, and changed to Patrick when he later became a bishop. He may be thought of as Irish now, but his exact birthplace is unknown. It was most likely in England, Wales or Scotland. In his teens, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was put to work as a herdsman. After six years, he managed to escape and possibly fled back to his home. He became a Christian priest before returning to Ireland as a missionary in the mid fifth century. He spent the next 30 years establishing schools, churches, and monasteries across the country. Patrick was later appointed as successor to St Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland. He is said to have died on March 17 in the year 461. The flag of St Patrick is a red saltire on a white background. The association with Ireland's patron saint dates back to the 1780s, when the Order of St Patrick adopted it as an emblem. When the 1800 Act of Union (which came into effect from 1 January 1801) joined Great Britain and Ireland, the saltire was added to the British flag to create the Union flag which is still used by the United Kingdom. The Union flag combines the flags of the St George's Cross, St Andrew's Saltire and St Patrick's Saltire.

Doesn't Ireland have another patron saint?

Yes, Ireland is lucky enough to have three patron saints. In addition to St Patrick, St Bridget and St Columba are patron saints of Ireland. St Bridget's feast day is celebrated on February 1, and St Columba is remembered on June 9, but March 17 is all about St Patrick.

When is the St Patrick's Day Parade?

St Patrick's Day parades are held in many cities around the world, drawing thousands of people. Last year was particularly poignant as Ireland marked the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a key event in the country’s history. This year's London St Patrick's Day Parade will take place on March 19. The The procession will make its way down Piccadilly from 12pm, on a 1.5-mile route, passing some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including The Ritz, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and onto Whitehall. It is followed by a St Patrick's Day Festival in Trafalgar Square where revellers can watch St Patrick’s Day performances by West End stars, Irish acts and community choirs, plus a huge céilí on the stage, hosted by Irish stand-up comedian Jarlath Regan. Festival-goers can then tuck into traditional and modern Irish food from the market, and enjoy special family activities for free. Find out more about the Trafalgar Square St Patrick's Day Festival.

Is St Patrick's Day a public holiday?

March 17 is a national holiday in Ireland, and in Northern Ireland.

Why do people wear green on St Patrick's Day?

Wearing green has now become associated with St Patrick's Day, even though the saint was originally associated with the colour blue. It is thought that the shift happened for several reasons – Ireland's nickname is the 'Emerald Isle', there is green in the Irish flag and the shamrock, Ireland's national symbol, is also green. According to Irish tradition, green is the colour of the Catholics and orange is the colour of the Protestants. On the Irish flag, these colours are separated by white, which is symbolic of peace between the two.

Some other St Patrick's Day celebrations

The White House celebrates St. Patrick's Day each year, dating back to the 1950s and has become an important standing engagement for Ireland, which has strong emotional and ancestral ties to the United States. In Chicago, thousands of people turn out to see the river being turned green, as part of a tradition that dates back to 1962. The colouring process takes five hours and involves a mix of forty pounds of powdered green vegetable dye being tipped overboard a boat. Other countries show their support by turning buildings green for the day, including the London Eye and HMS Belfast in London, Trinity College in Dublin, the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, Sydney Opera House in Australia, Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. The Telegraph