The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

Beyond the green

The history of St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17 across the world. Today, the traditions of St. Patrick’s Day, especially in the United States, includes parades, drinking, leprechauns, and wearing the color green. The roots of St. Patrick’s Day, however, are planted in rich Irish history and religious traditions. 

Saint Patrick, for whom is traditionally recognized on March 17, lived during the fifth century and was a patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. After escaping from being kidnapped, and moving to Ireland at 16, St. Patrick returned to the country and was credited with bringing its people Christianity. 

“In the centuries following Patrick’s death (believed to have been on March 17, 461), the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: Perhaps the most well-known legend of St. Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock,” History stated. 

For over 1,000 years now, the Irish have observed St. Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday. This event, which also takes place during Lent, was traditionally celebrated among  Irish families by going to church before celebrating later in the afternoon. 

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Over the centuries, the St. Patrick’s Days activities have evolved and the day’s celebrations have become more widespread and diverse. Many cities choose to celebrate the day with a parade. Interestingly enough, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held on March 17, 1601 in St. Augustine, Florida, which, back then, was a Spanish colony. 

“The parade, and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration a year earlier were organized by the Spanish colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur,” History remarked. 

After another parade was performed by Irish soldiers, over one century after St. Augustine’s, St. Patrick’s Day parades increased in popularity. As American immigrants began to spread Irish patriotism, the celebrations grew widespread and in 1848, several New York Irish Societies joined their parades together to form the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 

“Today, that parade is the world‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours,” History stated. 

Another, more modern St. Patrick’s Day tradition that began in the 1900s, was the dyeing of the Chicago River. 

“The practice started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river–enough to keep it green for a week,” History detailed. 

Today, only about 40 pounds of dye are used in the water, turning the river green for merely a few hours, in order to minimize any environmental damage. However, it is still a well-regarded St. Patrick’s Day tradition that the city of Chicago looks forward to every year. 

The color green did not become officially associated with St. Patrick’s Day until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion. Until the rebellion, the color that was associated with the Irish was blue, but during the rebellion, the British wore red and the Irish chose to wear green. 

Another icon of the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day is the leprechaun. These little sprites are one of the reasons why people are supposed to wear green on March 17. This tradition is tied back to Celtic folklore that details leprechauns as cranky, mischievous souls who like to pinch anyone that they see. People could only escape getting pinched if they were wearing green, which is said to make you invisible to leprechauns. 

The most famous legend surrounding Ireland’s beloved patron saint, Saint Patrick, was his explanation of the Holy Trinity, which he detailed by using the three leaves of the Irish clover, the shamrock, as a botanical symbol. While the three-leaved clover is linked to the spiritual history of Ireland, many people consider it a sign of luck to find a four-leaved clover. 

St. Patrick’s Day is more than just a day to wear green. For the Irish men and women across the globe, it is a day to remember Saint Patrick, a man who spread Christianity throughout Ireland. From its humble beginnings as a religious worship and feast, the celebration has morphed into a global phenomenon, uniting people from all cultures and backgrounds together to learn about and celebrate a key part of Irish tradition and history.

For more information about the history of St. Patrick’s Day, please visit

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Lainey Vollmer
Lainey Vollmer, Staff Writer

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