In Ireland, this is a day of religious observance and a celebration of St. Patrick's life as a Christian evangelist, preaching the gospel to the pagan tribes of Ireland. Irish folklore tells us that he used the Shamrock as a tool to teach the Christian idea of the holy Trinity to the Celts.
He worked tirelessly for thirty years spreadng the Word throughout the Emerald Isle and died on March 17, 461.
Originally the color for St. Patrick's Day was blue! It was only in the 1798 rebellion, when soldiers wore green in order to capture public attention in a political maneuver, that the phrase "wearing of the green" came about. Now, in the true American fashion of going all the way and then some, we dye entire rivers with it.
The feast day for St. Patrick was already celebrated by the Irish by the ninth and tenth centuries, and over the years, he sort of became the patron saint for all things Irish. The feast day, part of the Lenten tradition, was placed on the Catholic Liturgical calendar sometime in the 1600s, making it a holy day of obligation (ed.note: that was supposed to read "observation". Funny how my mind goes.) in Ireland. Well, for Roman Catholics, anyway. It became an official public holiday in 1903.
The Irish government petitioned to make the day a showcase for Ireland in the mid 1990's, campaigning far and wide to showcase their heritage in a festival, the first of which was held in 1996. I'm all for a good party--hell, I'm Irish--but what else do you need to showcase Ireland but Ireland?
This Is Ireland!
So, as you joyfully partake in the festivities, wear your green, and sate your thirst with a pint of emerald beer, remember dear old St. Patrick and his contributions. Remember the Irish, and remember the unfettered brightness and joy of their spirit, despite the many hardships and struggles they have endured over the centuries. You can't keep an Irishman or Irishwoman down for long, and isn't that a great thing? Because otherwise, this world would be sadly lacking in color, music, and smiles.
Erin Go Bragh!