St. Patrick’s Day
Every country has their own unique cultural symbols. Whether these are people, flags or artefacts, they have a deep historical significance, acting as signifiers of cultural identity and heritage.
In the case of the British Isles, what is often somewhat misunderstood is that there are several distinct nations, each with its own unique symbols. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, are represented by ‘patron saints.’ Each of these saints, St George for England, St Andrew for Scotland, St David for Wales and St Patrick for Ireland, are associated with a flag, a feast day, as well as unique stories and legends.
Whether this is the story of England’s St George slaying the dragon, or St Andrew inspiring a great Scottish victory, these symbols and stories matter today, and bring people together in celebration of the richness and diversity of different cultures.
St Patrick’s Day – The Patron Saint of Ireland
St Patrick’s day, commonly known today as Paddy’s Day, is a celebration held on the 17th of March each year. Although this was originally a traditional feast day held in Ireland and the UK, it is now celebrated by millions across the world, especially by the Irish diaspora in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
According to legend, St Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century AD, where at the age of sixteen, he was captured by raiders, and taken as a slave to Ireland. Historical accounts hold that with the help of his faith, he escaped, and became an influential religious leader. It is said that St Patrick was responsible for driving snakes out of Ireland – although what this means in truth is open to debate!
Since the 17th Century, St Patrick’s day has been become one of the largest cultural celebrations in the world. This is often celebrated with traditional Irish music and dance in events called Cèilidhean, promotion of the Irish language, carnivals, and parties.
Whilst some may associate St Patrick’s day with partying and alcohol, this actually does have some historical origins! The 17th of March falls during lent, when traditionally, eating certain foods and drinking alcohol was heavily restricted. However, on St Patrick’s Day, these restrictions were lifted, allowing revellers to make merry as they wished.
One of the more noticeable signs of St Patrick’s Day is the colour green. Many people wear green clothes, green ribbons and shamrocks (a three leaved plant). Many cities even put green dye in their fountains and rivers!
Although some say that these events have become too commercialised, or that they have lost their authenticity, they clearly have an important role to play in celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of our national cultures.