Considering Christianity is a monotheistic religion, it’s interesting that there is a Christian saint for almost everything and everyone. Even arms-dealers have their own, Saint Adrian of Nicomedia. Boy scouts and bartenders are taken care of by Saint Amand, and brewers by Arnold of Soissons. Not that he seems of any help, but Saint Cajetan is the one for job seekers, unemployed and gamblers. Alcohol was not left aside; vine growers and winemakers have Urban of Langres and Vicent of Saragossa. But the one that’s most familiar and is celebrated in countless countries is Saint Patrick. On 17 March, wearing green, if possible a shamrock, and drinking Guiness turns out to be an international tradition, but what is Saint Patrick really all about?
By the end of the fourth century, in a small town somewhere in Scotland or England, Maewyn Succat was born. Influenced by Catholicism at a very young age, the one boy we all know now by the name of Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced to work in awful conditions as a shepherd in Ireland. Then there is the mystical part of his life. It is said that he managed to escape, guided by God himself. He ran away, took a boat and after three days reached the English coast, and finally Gaul (or France for us a t present), where he became a priest. After studying theology and becoming bishop, he decided to go back to Ireland and convert the country to Catholicism. He was using the now famous shamrock to explain to the holy trinity and soon enough it became his most known symbol.
Then, more fantasy and myth follow. Legend says that Saint Patrick freed Ireland of snakes by making them jump off a cliff into the sea. Some say it’s just a symbol to explain how he brought light to the country through religion, but personally I prefer the snake version! From all those legends, Saint Patrick became the most glorious of all saints for the Irish, and their patron saint to be celebrated every year on 17 March considered their national day.
But a question remains – how a catholic celebration so close to Irish history could turn so far from religion and so worldwide? No misunderstanding here, in Ireland Saint Patrick’s Day still has a very strong religious connotation. But elsewhere, it seems to be just a day to wear green and drink beer. In fact, Saint Patrick’s Day was first brought to the United States in 1737 by Irish immigrants. This tradition settled there with them, and as we well know – what America does turns into a worldwide trend, especially if it’s a reason to party. Secondly, the Celtic Ireland, way before being catholic, was druidic and much into fantastic creatures such as the Leprechauns. These little and mischievous creatures who were hiding their gold at the end of rainbows were famous for their green coats and love of drinking. Saint Patrick being the national day of Ireland couldn’t be entirely detached from its old roots. Thus the colour green, even if the Catholics strongly believe that it’s because of Saint Patrick’s shamrock. The parades everywhere in the world include people dressed as Leprechauns, druids, saints, all wearing at least one green item and playing Irish or other Celtic music. According to a number of the Irish people, the celebration is more or less close to what is celebrated in Dublin. One thing is for sure, Saint Patrick, as many religious based festival that turned global, is mostly a good reason to meet friends and enjoy a nice evening together. Though Saint Patrick is no where related to beer, 17 March is always the occasion to try one of the numerous and delicious beers of Ireland – Beamish, Guinness, draught or extra-stout, or any else you like.!