Mar 092005
Authors: Kathryn Dailey

Guinness, Irish drinking songs, shamrocks and seas of partiers dressed in green mark my favorite holiday. While some people love the gifts they receive on Christmas and others relish Thanksgiving for the food, I love March 17 because it gives me a reason to celebrate my heritage. St. Patrick's Day is perhaps the one day that anyone can call themselves Irish, and while many people celebrate this day, few people know why they are celebrating.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. Legends of St. Patrick have grown throughout history. Two popular legends are of the sermon he gave on a hilltop that banished all the snakes from Ireland, and another that he could raise the dead. However, what he is known for is his conversion of the Irish, who at the time practiced a pagan religion that revolved around nature, to Christianity.

According to legend, Patrick was born in Britain to a wealthy family. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it is not believed that Patrick himself became religious until much later in life. At the age of 16 he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his family's estate. It was during this time that he became more religious and underwent religious training. After being ordained as a priest he was sent to Ireland.

Patrick used many of the pagan symbols and gave them Christian meanings to help familiarize the Irish people with the new religion. I have come to appreciate these symbols as a representation of my heritage and my religion. One example is the Celtic cross. Patrick superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to make the symbol of the cross more familiar to the Irish people.

While many people believe that the celebration of St. Patty's should be celebrated with drinking, it is primarily a religious holiday in Ireland. Until the 1970s Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on St. Patty's Day, according to the In 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to use March 17 as an opportunity to drive tourism and exhibit Ireland to the world. Now hundreds of thousands of people go to Dublin each year for the multi-day celebration of St. Patrick's.

The stereotype of Irish people is that of a fiery, potato-eating, drunken group of people. While quite often I will admit we are, the celebration of St. Patrick holds more meaning to many of us than a good pint. It is a celebration of Ireland's evolution as a country, and even for those of us who weren't born there, a strong part of our heritage.

"Erin Go Bragh!"


Kathryn Dailey is a sophomore technical journalism major. She is the assistant entertainment editor for the Collegian.

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