What is Saint Patrick’s Day?

What is Saint Patrick's Day?

Mary Hanna Bryant, Treasurer

While Saint Patrick’s Day is commonly known as a day of wearing green, pinching friends, and searching for “gold,” the important history behind the holiday is often forgotten. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle. He was born in Roman Britain and was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but he returned to Ireland and was given credit for spreading Christianity to its people. Patrick died on March 17, in Saul, where he had built his first church. In the centuries following his death, the mythology surrounding his life became even more ingrained in the Irish culture. The most well- known legend of Saint Patrick involves the shamrock, which he used to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using its three leaves. This plant has become famous throughout the world as a symbol of Irish heritage.


Early depictions of Saint Patrick show him wearing the color blue, and the official color of the Order of St. Patrick, part of Ireland’s chivalry, was a sky blue known as “St. Patrick’s Blue.” One of the reasons green replaced blue was because of Ireland’s nickname, The Emerald Isle. The green stripe in the Irish flag also played a role. Traditionally, the green represents the Catholics of Ireland, the orange represents the Protestant population, and the white in the middle symbolizes the peace between the two religions. The myth that green is to be worn to “make you invisible to leprechauns” originated in America–but hopefully the pot of gold can still be found!


The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade did not take place in Ireland, but in America. A Saint Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601 in a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Over the next 35 years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, creating the rise of “Irish Aid” societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each of these groups would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums. In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one official New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, the parade we watch on television every year is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States. The parade has over 150,000 participants and each year nearly three million people line the 1.5 mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes over five hours. 


This year, to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day at Rocky Mount Academy, the SGA organized a coin hunt! Anyone who wore green to school was given a coin, and other coins were hidden around the school. Clues and riddles to help find the coins were given over the intercom, and the class that found the most was given donuts!