Saint Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, but is also universally celebrated (though not as a public holiday) throughout the United States. Americans with Irish heritage make up one of the largest population groups in the country. On March 17, supermarkets, shops, and Irish pubs are decorated in green in celebration of Irish culture.
Originally, the holiday was created to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick. The celebration takes place during the Lenten period for catholics, who are traditionally not allowed to drink or eat meat during this time. These dietary restrictions were normally lifted for St. Patrick’s day, which made the feast a good excuse for the generous consumption of alcohol and the traditional corned beef. The religious roots of the celebration can still be seen in the symbolic shamrock (a green, three-leaved plant), which St. Patrick supposedly used to explain the holy trinity to the Irish.
Today however, “St. Paddy’s Day” is observed primarily as a recognition of Irish culture and patriotism around the world. Before Irish independence, green represented the color of Irish patriots and republicans, who wanted separation from the United Kingdom. Particularly in the United States, the color green plays a key role in the St. Patrick’s day festivities. The importance of the color green takes on extreme proportions in Chicago, where the Chicago river is dyed green for the occasion. On a more personal level, not wearing something green (traditionally) means that people are allowed to pinch you.
So on March 17, make sure to have a pint of Guinness and a slice of corned beef in celebration of Irish culture. Oh… and don’t forget to wear something green!