St. Patrick’s Day is important to Ireland for many reasons. Not only is it a religious holiday that represents Ireland’s transformation from paganism to Christianity, but the holiday also promotes Irish pride and heritage.
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The Patron Saint
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is celebrated because he performed many miracles and devoted most of his life to converting pagan Ireland to Christianity while building churches across the country.
Miracles of St. Patrick
Originally named Maewyn Succat before he became a priest and was christened Patrick, the saint is thought to have performed numerous miracles in his time. For example, according to legend, St. Patrick drove all of the snakes from Ireland and into the sea (there are no snakes on the Emerald Isle).
During his travels, St. Patrick and his travel companions found themselves without anything to eat. St. Patrick prayed for God to deliver them food and wild pigs wandered up before them. This display was said to have converted several of his fellow travelers.
Celebration and Sorrow
St. Patrick’s Day is not only a day of celebration, but it’s also a day of remembrance. According to Heather Miller, author of “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day,” “St. Patrick’s Day may be a day of celebration, but it is also a time when people remember the hard times many Irish were forced to struggle through.”
For example, from 1845 to 1851, Ireland suffered through the Great Famine, during which their primary food source, the potato, did not grow well. The British, who claimed authority over Ireland, did little to help. The starving people could not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so instead they gathered in protest of the British government.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
St. Patrick’s Day is also important to the Irish communities who live in America. Although St. Patrick’s Day originated in Ireland, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is an Irish-American tradition. Not only does the parade commemorate St. Patrick, but it also serves as a way to bring Irish-Americans together to celebrate Irish pride.
According to W. H. A. Williams, author of “'Twas only an Irishman's dream: the image of Ireland and the Irish in American popular song lyrics, 1800-1920,” “It was this wielding of Irish identity with American destiny that made the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations so important to the Irish community.”
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17, the day that St. Patrick died. Typically, a saint’s birth is celebrated, which makes this Irish holiday even more unique.