Here in Shady Pines Story Town, we love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This is a holiday known for celebrations, shamrocks and all things Irish. From leprechauns to the color green, find out how symbols we now associate with St. Patrick’s Day came to be. You may be surprised to find out some of these traditions were invented by Americans!
The shamrock, which was also called the “seamroy” by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. Way back in the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of the Irish trying to show its pride as a nation. England is right next to Ireland on the map. The England ruled over Ireland at the time. Slowly, the English government began to take more and more Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism. This made the Irish people upset and they began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.
Music is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day—and Irish culture in general. From ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture, where religion, legend and history were passed from one generation to the next by way of stories and songs. After being conquered by the English, and forbidden to speak their own language, the Irish turned to music to help them remember important events and hold on to their heritage and history. As it often stirred emotion and helped to bring people together, music was outlawed by the English. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth I even said that all artists and pipers were to be arrested and worse if they were caught making their music.
Today, traditional Irish bands like The Chieftains, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem are gaining worldwide popularity. Their music is produced with instruments that have been used for centuries, including the fiddle, the uilleann pipes (a sort of elaborate bagpipe), the tin whistle (a sort of flute that is actually made of nickel-silver, brass or aluminum) and the bodhran (an ancient type of framedrum that was traditionally used in warfare rather than music).
It has long been recounted that, during his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop (which is now called Croagh Patrick), and with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland.
In fact, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The “banishing of the snakes” was really a way to explain how other religious beliefs were not accepted in Ireland and Christianity was encouraged to be the religion of the land. Within 200 years of Patrick’s arrival, Ireland was completely Christianized.
Each year, thousands of Irish Americans gather with their loved ones on St. Patrick’s Day to share a “traditional” meal of corned beef and cabbage.
Though cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day at the turn of the century.
Irish immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.
The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow.”
Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day To You!