Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Even though the day is the feast day for the patron saint of Ireland it’s become a secular holiday. Many cities all over the United States wear green and celebrate with a parade and green beer.
All the festivities are far from traditional. Like other holidays, the modern observance of St. Patrick’s Day was shaped in some part by marketing.
The story told of St. Patrick is interesting and starts as it is reported he wasn’t even Irish, but was actually born in Britain in 390 A.D and was not raised in the Catholic faith. He was kidnapped as a teen, by Irish raiders, and spent time isolated. It is said that during that time he turned to spiritual thoughts for comfort. He was a prisoner for six years when he escaped back to Britain.
On his return, he studied to become a priest. After being ordained he was sent on a mission back to Ireland. While in the Emerald Isle he was not treated well, he was beaten and harassed. He died in 461 A.D. The date of his death is believed to be March 17th.
The celebration of the holiday grew from folklore, that he banished all the snakes from Ireland, and was pretty low-key until the 20th century. According to Time magazine, the first celebration of St. Patrick’s Day took place in 1737 in Boston with a dinner dedicated to the saint. Thirty years later, parades began in New York. This may be why many view St. Patrick’s Day largely as an American invention.
The shamrock was employed as one of the first commercialization representations of the holiday. It was supposedly used by St. Patrick to teach the Irish about the trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It now adorns advertisements, decorations and clothing.
As you’re out watching the parade and enjoying your green beer, in your green shirt, probably purchased just for this holiday, thank a marketer for all that this day has become. With a little marketing, a story can take on a life of its own.