What is celebrated on St. Patrick’s Day and why is it associated with beer?

St. Patrick’s Day, or Saint Patrick’s Daytakes place every year on March 17th with a triumph of green colour (symbol of Ireland) to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland – Saint Patrick – Christian bishop who evangelized Ireland in the 5th century. The current form of the celebration, based on parades, musical evenings and great beer drinking, was born in the second half of the nineteenth century on the initiative of Irish communities who emigrated to the United States. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the holiday has established itself in Ireland, also taking on nationalist meanings, and, more recently, it has also spread to other countries, including Italy. Of course, in a festival that celebrates Irish pride, one can only consume the symbolic drink of the country: beer.

Who was Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland

Saint Patrick, born Maewyin Succat, was a bishop born in Roman Britain In the 385 BC He was responsible for the spread of Christianity on Irish soil: around the year 431, when the Celtic cults, began his evangelization missions and in a few years managed to propagate the new religion throughout the territory. He died on March 17, 461. One of the symbols of St. Patrick is the clover because, according to a legend established in the 18th century, the saint used it to explain to the Irish population the principle of the Trinity.

Saint Patrick on the stained glass window of a church in Ohio (credits Nheyob)

The origins of Saint Patrick’s Day

The celebration of St. Patrick is very ancient: it is celebrated by time immemorial in Irish churches and at the beginning of the 17th century it officially entered the Christian liturgical calendar. Originally it was not associated with heavy drinking of beer, also because the anniversary falls during Lent, which, as we know, is a period of fasting and abstinence.

In its current form, St. Patrick’s Day she was not born in Irelandbut in the Irish communities that emigrated to United States. In the mid-nineteenth century, the potato famine that struck the British Isles caused massive emigration to the United States. Communities residing in New York, Chicago, and other cities attributed much importance to respecting Irish traditions and they got into the habit of celebrating the country’s patron saint with large public celebrations. The custom of wearing also became established green clothesthe color of the shamrock, already present on Ireland’s national emblems and symbols.

St. Patrick's Day Parade

When and how the festival spread in the twentieth century

In IrelandSt. Patrick’s Day has become one national holiday in 1903. In the following years, when the struggle for independence from the United Kingdom intensified, the holiday took on a nationalist meaning. Traditions associated with the celebration include i public processionsin which green dresses or other typical clothing are often worn, ei traditional songs.

Instead in northern Ireland– the sector of the island of Ireland which is politically part of the United Kingdom and in which a large component of the population is not Catholic, but Anglican – the celebration originally involved mainly Catholic citizens, but today it is appreciated by all the inhabitants

Saint Patrick is also celebrated in all the territories in which Irish communities reside, primarily in the United Kingdom, and has become widespread in recent times also in other countries, including Italyespecially on the initiative of the breweries, many of which are organizing themed evenings on March 17 to attract customers.

St. Patrick's Day in Buenos Aires (credits penelope777)

Why do people drink so much beer on St. Patrick’s Day?

The reason why beer is drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day is very simple: the drink, like the saint, is one of the symbols of Ireland. The celebration, as we have seen, was born to consolidate Irish identity among emigrant communities and it was natural to associate it with the consumption of Ireland’s “national” drink. The beer, however, it has no “direct” connections with the character of Saint Patrickas is sometimes believed, also because, when the saint lived, it had not yet been introduced to Irish soil.

Today all varieties of beer are consumed during the celebration, but in the past it was mainly drunk stout, which, despite having been invented in London, was widely spread in Ireland thanks to an 18th century brewer, Arthur Guinness. For many years, stout was the most consumed beer in Ireland and, although it has now lost its primacy to lagers (light beers), it is considered one of the symbols of the country.

Another drink is also associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the ciderof Celtic origin and derived from the fermentation of apples, of which the Irish are among the largest consumers in the world.