St. Patrick's Day, like so many of our modern holidays, has evolved and altered through the years. The holiday has been observed for over 1,000 years, however, only recently the holiday has spread outside of Ireland and into countries such as the United States and Canada. Originally, the St. Patrick's Day was celebrated as a religious holiday and commemorated the life of Saint Patrick, the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland.
Saint Patrick was actually not of Irish decent, but was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century. After being kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave, Saint Patrick claimed he saw a vision from God directing him how to escape. Upon his return to Roman Britain, he joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.
The celebration of St. Patrick's Day began around the 9th or 10th century in Ireland with special church attendance followed by a Roman Catholic Feast Day. The holiday takes place on the anniversary of Saint Patrick's death, which is believed to have occurred on March 17, 461.
There are a number of ways in which this holiday has changed over the centuries. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. However, starting in 1995 the government of Ireland began a national campaign in order to use St. Patrick's Day as a way to drive interest in their country. In order to increase tourism and showcase Ireland and their culture, the holiday began to be altered in order to be more about the Irish lifestyle and less about the original religious observance for which the holiday was created.
Today, St. Patrick's Day is perhaps the most widely celebrated saint's day in the world. There is also a great deal of folklore associated with the holiday. Most common of this folklore is the symbolism of the shamrock. Legend tells that Saint Patrick used the Shamrock as a means to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity - how the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost could be three separate beings that created one entity, like the three leaves of the shamrock.
Another interesting change in the holiday is the use of the color green, which was not the original color of St. Patrick's Day. In fact, the original color associated with the holiday was blue. Over the years, green has become the symbolic color of the holiday, most likely due to the color and the folklore of the shamrock.
We hope you and yours have a happy and safe St. Patrick's Day! And may the luck o' the Irish be with you!