When St. Patrick’s Day arrives on March 17, millions of Americans of Irish decent — and many with no direct ties to the country — will hoist a few pints of green beers at neighbor pubs and restaurants. In some cities, rivers will be died green and four-leaf clovers will be plastered on office doors.
While it’s the official national holiday in the Republic of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has become a signature celebration for Irish decedents in North America who fondly recall “the old country,” says Fred Suppe, a Ball State history professor and past-president of the Celtic Studies Association of North America.
“Many Irish people who were forced to emigrate away from Ireland during the nineteenth century felt great nostalgia for their homeland and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day became one of many ways to preserve their sense of Irish cultural identity.”
Suppe points out that while the often-mythological St. Patrick really existed, he was not Irish and he did not evict snakes from Ireland as legend has it. (There were no snakes in Ireland to evict!) He lived in the fifth century and wrote a sort of spiritual autobiography that provides some details about his life. He was kidnapped from his home by Irish raiders while still in his teens, spent six years in Ireland as a slave, escaped, but then returned later as a missionary to spread the Christian religion.
Because of his religious exploits, he eventually became renowned as the national saint of Ireland and his saint’s day, March 17, is now an official holiday in the Republic of Ireland.
Suppe may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-285-8783.
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