St. Patty’s Day: The History and Kansas Tradition

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By Deiah Curtis

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!! Too bad it’s the day he died. Holidays come around every season, we dress up, sing certain songs, and wear specific colors, but do we ever know why? St. Patrick’s (or Patty’s) Day has become a celebration all around the world including countries like America, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and of course, Ireland. The holiday is a celebration dedicated to Leprechauns, shamrocks, beer, dancing and just being Irish. But is that the truth behind it or did the holiday come about for something other than a Shamrock Shake every March?

St. Patrick was an actual person; he was one of Ireland’s patron saints. He is also accredited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and then establishing Ireland as a Christian nation after teaching the gospel. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD, hence why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on and around that day. It is a day of feast to celebrate St. Patrick and his life. Funny thing was, he wasn’t even Irish, he was in Ireland as a slave, escaped back to England, became a priest, then went back to Ireland to bring Christianity to the Irish. After his death, the tribute was made to his life. Migrants led off to new lands, and the Irish traditions followed them. Many countries celebrate the commemorative holiday, most areas with high populations of Irish immigrants or one that was founded by the Irish, giving the holiday its global status. There are nearly 33.1 million people just in America who claim Irish heritage, while Ireland only holds 4.3 million people (that’s 8 times the amount). Now, around the 17th of March every year, one of the national Irish colors is used by millions to celebrate the global, green holiday.

Another big part of the holiday is the color green, the shamrock, the “luck of the Irish.” But in fact, it is believed in Irish folklore that Leprechauns are tricky little devils that love to pinch you if they can see you. Wearing green made you invisible to a leprechaun so the tale goes. If the little trickster saw you, you’d get pinched. In 2018, entire cities would be invisible to the tricksters with everything going green. Green drinks, green hair, green streams, green streets, glowing green buildings, and green bodies everywhere. The legend of the Leprechaun has changed the way we see green, especially in March.

Next is the shamrock, or “the luck of the Irish.” The shamrock is actually an exceedingly common plant that grows all over Ireland (and probably in some of your back yards if you’ve looked around). Those were actually used by St. Patrick to help explain and represent the Holy Trinity and the three divine powers. The “lucky” four leaf clover is actually extremely rare as there’s only one in every 10,000 clovers hat bloom with the four-leaf mutation to the plant. St. Patrick explained the four leafs stood for faith, hope, love, and luck, making the clover the “lucky clover” the world knows today.

Now even if you’re 5,000 miles and a continent away from the source of the tradition, Kansas has never been known to sit out of a good time. Manhattan, KS has some of the highest populations of green people flowing in and out for the weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s Day.

Aggie Ville will have hundreds of thousands of visitors from over five surrounding states, making the holiday that much more fun. All Manhattan police and officials are on duty that entire weekend, and surrounding towns and venders are ordered in just to keep up with the masses.

There are concerts, parades, fireworks, food, and lots of drinks. It’s a good time for everyone, in Kansas and the rest of the country. Of the 33.1 million people that claim Irish heritage, nearly 60% will celebrate the holiday and then 50% of America as a whole will celebrate the festivities. In 2017, Americans spent 4.4 billion dollars on beer alone.

So whether you’re Irish or not, believe in Leprechauns or not, Christian or not, March 17th is a holiday to not only celebrate the life of St. Patrick, but a day of great feast. It’s a time to eat and be merry, to enjoy others company, to glow with green, and to find the luck of the Irish.