Did you know? Drinking & Saint Patrick…

Drinking with the blessings of the Church

St. Patrick’s Day has its roots in Christian traditions in Ireland. The holiday is in the middle of the Christian season of Lent and despite this it became a symbol of Irish drinking and partying at the beginning of spring time.

St Patrick is one of the most important saints in Ireland and although alcohol and meat were not allowed to be consumed during Lent, the Church allowed its believers to make an exception to Lent on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate this festival in Ireland. This explains why St. Patrick’s Day is still a festival where people eat and drink a lot, because fasting must be continued the following day.

St. Patrick was a slave

Nheyob / CC BY-SA

St. Patrick was the first missionary to work in Ireland in the century of Christianity. Historians don’t agree where St. Patrick originated and many legends are told about him. His real name was probably Maewyn Succat.

The most likely story of Saint Patrick is that he was British and was captured in his youth by Irish pagans. He lived as a slave in Ireland for six years until he finally managed to escape. Back in England he was ordained to the priest Patrick. Priest Patrick’s goal was to bring the word of God to the people who had enslaved him for years – the Celts in Ireland.

The parades on St. Patrick’s Day are a kind of welcome celebration for the returning priest and bearer of the Word of God. Since ancient times, man has held parades for important people who were victorious in their homeland.

Shamrocks

It is said that St. Patrick used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) to the Irish. In doing so, he used his knowledge of the Celts, for whom shamrocks had a special meaning.

Rathlin Island Keith Ruffles / CC BY

In Celtic belief, the shamrock is considered the symbol of happiness, prosperity and vitality. The plant has long been said to have a magical effect and in Ireland it was used as a medicinal plant. A legend says that if you rubbed crushed shamrocks over your eyes you could see a fairy island between Ireland and Rathlin Island on the north coast of Ireland. Prepared as tea, the Celts believed that shamrocks purified the blood. It is said that four-leaf shamrocks attract fairies, but the Irish national symbol is only the three-leaf shamrock.

The use of the Celtic shamrock symbol as a teaching material for Christianization was very successful: St. Patrick founded many churches, schools and monasteries; and made the formerly Celtic shamrock a symbol of Christian Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day used to be blue

Sodacan / CC BY-SA

Many are unaware that blue has long been the color of Ireland. Evidence of this fact gives the term “St. Patrick’s blue ” which applies to several shades of blue associated with Saint Patrick and Ireland. The color change to green was initiated first in 1641. At that time Irish nobles and clergymen rebelled against the English king. One of the Irish uprising military leaders was Owen Roe O’Neill. His coat of arms showed a harp on a green background. This became a symbol of all Irish rebels and Republicans who repeatedly opposed the English crown. The English blue was slowly replaced by green as the color of the Irish until in 1798 during the Irish rebellion, the wearing of shamrocks and the color green became a symbol of Ireland’s nationality – and has remained so to this day.

Montserrat – St. Patrick’s Day As A Slavery Reminder

Montserrat is a Caribbean island and overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The people of the island of Montserrat celebrate St Patrick’s Day as a public holiday, it is a week-long festival celebrated every year since 1985. It is a reminder of the failed slave revolt on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1768.

Image by jorono from Pixabay

After the Kalinago Genocide of 1626 in St. Kitts, the first Irishmen settled in Montserrat from the nearby island in 1632 to freely practice Catholicism. This made the Irish some of Montserrat’s earliest settlers. From 1649 to 1653 (Cromwellian conquest in Ireland) Cromwell invaded Ireland, defeated the Confederate and Royalist coalition in Ireland and occupied Ireland for the British Crown. This conquest of Ireland was extremely brutal. It is called An Mallacht Cromail (“The Curse of Cromwell”) in Irish. About fifty thousand Irish people, including prisoners of war were sold as indentured laborers under the English Commonwealth regime during the time of the conquest of Ireland. This is the reason why Irish people accounted for almost 70% of Montserrat’s white population by the late seventeenth century. (In Montserrat, Barbados and St. Kitts some of their poor white descendants are today known as Redlegs. The term Redleg likely derived from fair skin turning red in the sunshine.)

Hards, Vaughan & Jenkinson (Firm) / Public domain

In 1651 the English Guinea Company brought the first African slaves to Montserrat. It was an Irish trader who started the slave trade on the island, and in the following years some Irish families became wealthy plantation owners on Montserrat. The colonists built an economy based on the production of sugar, rum, arrowroot and sea island cotton, cultivated on large plantations manned by slave labor. Africans did not become the largest group on the island until around the beginning of the 18th century, when the island’s economy depended upon sugar.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1768, a group of slaves were planning an uprising expecting their British and Irish masters were drinking and celebrating on Saint Patrick’s Day. The slave rebellion of 1768 was thwarted when overheard by a white seamstress. On that day nine leaders of the rebellion were put to death. Slavery on Montserrat was abolished by the English, in 1834, but its legacy can still be seen on the island.

Today, Montserrat is one of three places where St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday, along with Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland & Labrador.  A difference about Montserrat’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations is that the focus is not on the catholic St. Patrick holiday but to remember the islands’ history of a failed slave uprising that occurred on March, 17th 1768 – Saint Patrick’s Day.