As a Korean-American growing up in Southern California, I have never really questioned the history or importance behind annually celebrated holidays such as the Independence Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. St. Patrick’s Day strikes me as mysterious and different, as I soon realized: I knew nothing about it.
Just who was St. Patrick? What did he accomplish in his life in Ireland? What’s with all the green?
Of course, I did know the basic premise of St. Patrick’s Day, as primary schools do fix their activities to the theme of holidays for the children. However, because children are not interested in the historical or religious aspect of a celebration, holiday festivities are reduced to coloring books, gold coins and leprechaun stories.
Understandably, this is why I visualized a more fantastical version of St. Patrick’s Day. Therefore, this March, I decided to finally read into its real history out of my own curiosity.
According to britannica.com, throughout his life, St. Patrick — whose real name was thought to be Maewyn Succat — devoted his time and efforts into establishing monasteries, churches and schools for the sake of Christianity. He was revered for his accomplishments as a priest and patron saint.
Succat was an important public figure throughout the fourth century in Ireland, which secured him a holiday devoted to commemorating his religious feat.
However, as I see it now, St. Patrick’s Day had indeed been “converted,” although it has not changed to its initial intentions. From bright, red-headed leprechauns to coloring every food item available in wide shades of green, the holiday became more of an advertising tactic rather than a coveted ceremony.
I am not sure if one is aware, but each year when March begins to near, every store, restaurant and business flip inside out to get their hands on as much green, gold and clover they can find. Places such as Applebee’s start serving green beers called “Rolling Rock Green Beer,” and Krispy Kreme drizzles their original doughnuts in a green-colored glaze for a day.
Of course, the same kind of marketing can be seen around Halloween or Christmas, but the overwhelming push for St. Patrick’s Day commodities is astounding, for the celebration is not as widely revered as many of the main holidays. However, when it comes down to common sense, it is reasonable that the free market economy would immediately jump at another opportunity to advertise to a wide audience by utilizing a holiday as a platform.
Thankfully, the influence St. Patrick’s Day has over many food and drink franchises did not come about because of corporate greed; it’s all for the appeal toward tourists and Americans. In fact, after Irish immigrants introduced the holiday to the United States, they began coloring their food, beer and decorations green for the amusement of tourists rather than for the purpose of the holiday, according to britannica.com.
In all honesty, I did not wear green this year. I used to in previous years to avoid pinchings; however, it completely slipped my mind, and it had approached so quickly. I did have the pleasure of seeing green-and-gold-clad citizens of Los Angeles parading around the streets as I had visited the area for the weekend.
Though I may have crudely stated that St. Patrick’s Day retains no meaning than that of a holiday meant for feverish companies to gain a quick buck, there are some positive aspects to it as well. Like most holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is deeply rooted within our childhoods, as they tend to focus more intimately on the celebration of holidays in school.
Many students who have attended elementary school will say that their teachers have adamantly celebrated the holiday with them by making decorations, creating traps for leprechauns or having their classes wear green. It was quite wholesome to see how Irish immigrants have successfully implemented their culture into an American celebration –– one that is enjoyable for both kids and adults.
If I had just assumed that St. Patrick’s Day was a simple holiday meant for parties, Shamrock shakes and a chance to place leprechauns into a commercial, I would never have guessed that it represented a religious heritage. I know now, based on the historical aspect, that although advertising is strongly promoted in an eccentric fashion, the Irish holiday has more to it than what was originally assumed.