St. Patrick’s Day: Breaking the Myths


Clover Encounter | by Avia Venefica via Creative Commons

Let’s face it: there is nothing religious about St. Patrick’s Day nowadays except with the name. From the apparent Catholic origin of the holiday now comes the commercially famed alcohol revelry. Much worse is the fact that most of the religious trivia are sugarcoated with myths. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes, it’s rather hyperbolic to think of how such a genuine goal of presenting the Irish culture to the rest of the world has turned into a seemingly let’s-all-get-wasted kind of celebration. Here are some of the overstated myths of St. Patrick’s Day that could make you think twice on your merrymaking.

St. Patrick was not Irish

Perhaps you already know this. But in case you don’t, you’re in for a big surprise. St. Patrick was British and was born to an aristocratic Christian family that owned a lot of properties and even slaves. This was in 390 AD. What’s even more astonishing is the fact that even he was brought up by a Christian family, he had no interest in the religion until something happened when he was 16. He was kidnapped and made a slave for seven years in Ireland where he had his religious conversion. Then the rest was history.

Shamrock is not uniquely Irish

Ireland will not be called Emerald Isle for no reason. Its verdant countryside is always mentioned in every literary works about this western side of Europe. That could be the basis why it was easy for St. Patrick to choose a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans. Yet, it could be an important thing to know that the particular shamrock being referred to in history books – Trifolium dubium – is not just in Ireland but in most of Europe. And yes, that is the official clover plant. Thus, we can say that other shamrock designs are bogus. The tradition of wearing the three leaves of clover, however, can be dated back to the 17th and 18th century. While the legend could be true, incorporating it to the Irish fashion had only been done later on.

There are no snakes in Ireland

Certainly there’s none because St. Patrick drove them away. There is nothing wrong in believing this one but to put scientific basis in it, Ireland is in the middle of icy waters. It would be hard for the snakes to migrate from any parts of Europe. Some scholars say that the snakes probably symbolized the old and evil ways of the pagans in Ireland. Either we put it that way and believe that the real snakes never really existed or we trust the oral tradition about how miraculous St. Paddy was.

Some say that St. Patrick’s Day is just an invention of the Irish-Americans who first migrated in the USA. Whatever part of the holiday we believe or not, the main objective of it is certainly to show the world the rich Irish culture and heritage. That is the reason why Christians and non-believers alike are all welcome to celebrate in the annual parades and get-togethers.

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