G’day to you! St. Patrick’s Day tends to be one of the most celebrated holidays around the country, especially along the Lowcountry. From Charleston to Savannah and everywhere in between, there are plenty of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to keep you occupied.
But do any of us really know the story behind St. Patrick’s Day? We’re here to share some insight into some of the most popular St. Patrick’s Day traditions celebrated around the globe.
Parades are a relatively new St. Patrick’s Day tradition. The day was originally a religious holiday but became a celebratory affair because of the Irish Americans, who were looking for a way to celebrate their Irish roots. The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade happened in 1762 and by the mid-19th century, parades became a common staple in almost every St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Known in ancient Ireland as a sacred plant, there are a few different theories behind the shamrocks. Legend has it that Saint Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity. Some say that it simply symbolizes the rebirth of spring, while others say that it served as a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism in a time of oppression. Regardless of where it originated, the shamrock has become synonymous with Irish heritage and people will wear them on their coats to show their Irish pride.
Music has always been an important part of Irish life. The Celts had an oral culture, where religion, legends and history were passed down through the generations by way of stories and songs. Even today, modern Irish musicians continue to share stories through song. Some of the traditional Irish instruments you may hear during St. Patrick’s Day festivities include the fiddle, uilleann pipes, tin whistle and the bodhrán.
Leprechauns stem from the Celtic belief in fairies, who are tiny men and women with magical powers they can use for both good and evil. The first mention of leprechauns occurred in the 8th century from the word ‘luchorpán,’ which meant “little body.” There is also an Irish fairy from an 1825 publication who’s described as “a cunning spirit who haunts cellars, drinks, smokes and plays tricks,” that is believed to be part of the inspiration behind leprechauns.