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And for One Day, All the World is Irish

Here in Ireland we are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. For such a tiny island, its culture has been exported all over the world and on Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone is a wee bit Irish. To help understand why we celebrate St. Paddy’s (never St. Patty’s), here is a bit of history.

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 5th century and was forced into slavery in Ireland at age 16, and sent to work as a shepherd. He relied on religion to get him through the long and lonely days. Eventually he escaped and studied to become a priest, but he returned to spread Christianity to the Irish people and to build churches across the country. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three leaves of a clover (shamrock) to explain the Holy Trinity. The colour originally associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue, but over time people began to associate it more with green. Although nobody is quite sure why, some people believe the change has to do with St. Patrick’s shamrocks. Others say the green was inspired Ireland’s rolling green hills. Some even say that wearing green clothing will make you invisible to the leprechauns, who would pinch you if only they could see you! St. Patrick also famously chased all of the snakes out of Ireland and there really are no snakes here.

After his death on March 17th, 460 AD, St. Patrick was remembered each year on March 17th by the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church and his life celebrated with a day of feasting on traditional Irish food.

In the 1800′s, the holiday began to spread with the dispersion of Irish people around the world. Celebrations of St. Patrick’s day in America grew to include annual parades with bagpipes and drums. A few Irish groups in New York pooled their resources to create one big parade, which became the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which now draws crowds of several million each year. In fact, New York was the first city to hold an official St. Patrick’s Day Parade, before even Dublin, which all but closed down each year in recognition of the holiday. It has only been in recent years that Ireland has adopted the more boisterous celebratory style that is seen in other parts of the world.

St. Patrick’s Day is now widely celebrated as a secular holiday, with many of its worldwide participants seeking to enjoy Irish culture in general instead of specifically celebrating St. Patrick’s contribution to the spread of Christianity in Ireland.

Across Ireland the festival is celebrated for a few days, but the magic really happens in Dublin. Thousands of wildly dressed and colourful performers entertain crowds of natives and tourists alike with music, street theatre, carnivals, and parades.

Food is an important part of the celebration, with many people around the world turning to “traditional” Irish food, like corned beef and cabbage and soda bread. Ironically, it is rare to see corned beef and cabbage served in Ireland. Many people now prepare green food for St. Patrick’s Day– anything from green pasta, green pizza, and green eggs and ham, to green desserts and pastries, although this tradition has yet to hit the shores of Ireland. And of course, there is plenty of beer and liquor, especially in the pubs. In fact, Guinness has even tried to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday in the United States.

St. Patrick’s Day brings out the Irish in everyone; the Irish celebrate their culture, those with an Irish heritage let it shine, and non-Irish declare themselves Irish-by-association for the day. To find our more about Irish culture or doing business with the Irish, contact us for specific half day or full day country-specific training courses that highlight intercultural communication, negotiation and global business skills.

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