St. Patrick’s Day was originally a religious holiday and there were no “St. Patrick’s Day drinks.” In fact, for many years in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was considered a solemn occasion. All pubs were closed for the day.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Irish government began promoting St. Patrick’s Day. They did it as a way to boost tourism, and the celebration became more secular and associated with drinking alcohol.
The solemn holy-day
St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with excessive drinking. In fact, it’s become such a tradition that many people overlook the holiday’s true origins and meaning.
The origins of St. Patrick’s Day can actually be traced back hundreds of years. It was first celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of the patron saint of Ireland. So much for the drunken Irish stereotype.
Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century.
Originally, the day was observed with prayer and church services. The writings of St. Patrick tell us that he was born in Britain but captured by pirates at age 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave. He believed his enslavement was due to his lack of faith as a child.
Later, after escaping slavery and returning home to be reunited with his family, he returned to Ireland to spread the word of God and repent for these sins. In Ireland, March 17 marks the death of the country’s beloved patron saint.
St. Patrick’s day became a day for drinking
Up until the 1970s, Irish law prohibited pubs from opening on March 17. This was meant as a mark of respect for this religious day. But this date also takes place during Lent, and authorities thought it might lead some to temptation to have the pubs open on a celebratory day.
But as the years went by, the religious significance of the day began to take a back seat. Celebrations became more “festive,” shall we say. And, to be fair, in the 18th century, the Irish were already using the day to celebrate the pride in their heritage.
Now, the wearing of green, the drinking of Guinness, the insisting that you’re Irish – those all have their roots in Irish-American culture, rather than the religious origins of the holiday in Ireland. But some of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades took place in Ireland to celebrate its culture.
Taking back Saint Paddy’s Day?
Of course, there are plenty of places that still recognize St. Patrick’s Day as an official religious holiday rather than the prelude to a nasty hangover.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement to reclaim the religious significance of St. Patrick’s Day, and to focus more on its origins as a day of reflection and spiritual renewal. This focus on the religious aspect of the holiday is seen as particularly important in a world where many of us are disconnected from our spiritual roots.
As for whether you have a St. Patrick’s Day drinks this year – well, that’s up to you!