Originally published March 17, 2017.
In Ireland, the coldest and wettest day of the year is St. Patrick's.
At least, according to the locals.
Ireland's national holiday, Paddy's (not Patty's!) Day sees an array of various parades across the country. People deck out in their best green outfits, hair, facepaint and even Irish tattoo sleeves to celebrate the death of the patron saint Patrick.
Unless one works in the service industry or for a UK company, employees and students get the day off to celebrate. Those who do work for a UK company, can't talk their boss into giving them the day off and who take public transportation to work will want to be sure to check the bus schedules, as the bus does run on a different schedule due to it being a bank holiday.
Cork City held a parade in the city centre starting at 1 p.m., attended by 50,000 people, the Irish Times reported. The theme was "Cork - A City of Community, Culture and Commerce." The parade was headlined by Ford, which celebrated 100 years of production in Cork.
To showcase the harmony of community, culture and commerce, parade attendees also saw Nigeria Community Cork, the United Filipino Irish Association, the Mexican Community Cork, Mayfield GAA Club and various street performances. There was even a visit from the Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe.
Unlike the standard parade in the United States, particularly the ones on the Fourth of July, the Paddy's parade was shockingly short, but nonetheless enjoyable. Afterward, the crowds dispersed to continue their celebrations individually, whether with traditional Irish meals or with non-Irish food that has become a part of Irish culture.
But how did Paddy's Day come about? Who was St. Patrick?
According to catholic.org, the Roman Britain-born St. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates at age 14 to become a slave who herded and tended to sheep. Thrust into a land of Druids and Pagans and held captive for six years, Patrick's faith in God only grew. At 20, Patrick escaped back to Britain and later became ordained. Upon achieving priesthood, Patrick was assigned to bring the Gospel to Ireland.
Patrick returned to the place that had stolen him from his family, converting many people and building churches across the land. Now the symbol of Ireland, Patrick explained the Holy Trinity with the shamrock, which originally represented the triple goddess Brigit. For 40 years, he preached and converted, despite suffering and poverty. Patrick died 17th March 461 and is believed to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick (County Down in Northern Ireland.)
According to history.com, the Irish have observed St. Patrick's death as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years.
However, the first Paddy's parade was in the United States, not Ireland. On Paddy's Day 1762 in New York City, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city and "reconnect[ed] with their Irish roots."
While Paddy's Day became a grand celebration in the United States, it was strictly religious in Ireland until 1995. To drive tourism and share Irish culture with the rest of the world, the Irish government got rid of the mandates that pubs be closed on 17th March.
Like most holidays, although the day still carries the patron saint's name, it has become a blend of religious and secular ideas which ultimately make it a day that is all about Irish culture. The leprechaun, a favorite for Paddy's, is a Celtic fairy. And although most of the day is spent kid-friendly, you'll want to be sure to keep the kids in once evening hits, as that's when the partiers start having their fun.
If you ever get the chance to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, do. Just know that, unlike the Fourth of July, the entire day won't be riddled with festivities.
Well, unless you want to go down the local pub and have yourself a pint.