April 6 is National Tartan Day. National Tartan Day honors all the Scottish heritage that flows through this nation. From its earliest beginnings, Americans with Scottish ancestry endeavored for that freedom as much as any American. It was in their blood.
It was 400 years before they had declared –
“For we fight not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, but for freedom alone which no good man give sup except for his life.” – from the Declaration of Arbroath
It might be surprising to know that of the 13 governors in the newly established United States; nine were Scots. There are 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence. Some scholars suggest nearly a third of those signers were of Scottish descent.
Not only can we point to the country’s founding fathers, but of the 43 Presidents who have taken office, 33 have been of Scottish descent.
Those with Tartan blood were and are independent and resourceful. They are prolific inventors and writers. They are talented musicians and artist, experienced leaders and scholars. In the United States today, over 11 million Americans claim Scottish or Scotch-Irish roots. That makes them the 8th largest ethnic group in the United States.
What is a Tartan?
A tartan, is a cloth bearing a pattern of overlayed checks in several bright colors. A plaid, contrary to popular usage, “is actually a blanketlike piece of tartan worn over the shoulder.”
Tartan is Scotland’s famous patterned woven textile. It’s the most recognizable pattern associated with Scotland. Tartan consists of “interwoven vertical and horizontal lines, known as a sett,” according to Scotland’s National Tourism Organisation. The pattern is seen on shirts, kilts and other clothing.
How To Observe Tartan Day:
- Check local civic websites for parades, ceremonies and events.
- Wear your tartan
- Use #NationalTartanDay to post on social media.
- Create a tartan that is unique to your ‘family clan’.
- Attend a Tartan Day parade. One of the largest Tartan Day parades is held in New York City.
- Learn Highland dancing which originated in the Scottish Highlands.
- Eat traditional Scottish foods including Haggis, Scottish porridge, Scotch broth and shortbread cookies.
- Play golf. Golf originated in Scotland during the 15th century
So you want to wear a traditional kilt on National Tartan day and you aren’t sure how to get it on properly? Here’s a video showing how to correctly fold and wear the Scottish plaid, a step by step guide to becoming a real highlander!
National Tartan Day Facts & Quotes
- Rachel Walker holds the Guinness World Record for wearing the most Tartans within 60 seconds. Walker managed to put on 4 kilts within 60 seconds.
- According Martin Martin, author of A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, a tartan served to distinguish residents of different regions. Eventually, the tartan was used as a symbol of belonging to a specific clan.
- The major languages spoken in Scotland are English, Scottish Gaelic and Scots.
Photos for National Tartan Day:
Hans Wild’s photos from the 1940’s capture the intricate detail of Scottish culture down to the shearing of a wooly sheep and the fingering on a traditional bagpipe melody. Pride, in both national heritage and familial lineage, courses through the images. It was, after all, a matter of serious — and legal — business, as the magazine laid out clearly: “A person who wears the crest of a clan of which he is not a member may be fined £8 6s 8d.”
And just for good measure, here’s one last pic:
The Festival of the Tooth – An extended and lavish holiday which commemorates a holy relic of Buddha, his eye tooth.
Kandy is a beautiful city in Sri Lanka. On a small hill is a great temple which was especially built to house a relic of the Buddha – his tooth. The tooth can never be seen, as it is kept deep inside may caskets. But once a year in August, on the night of the full moon, there is a special procession for it. But other festivities occur on ten days leading to that final day.
The dates of the festival vary from year to year. In 2017, the festival runs from July 29 thru August 8th. The Festival begins with the cutting of a sanctified young jack tree. Branches of the tree are then planted near the shrines of the four guardian gods Natha (a Buddhist savior), Vishnu (for safeguarding Buddhism in Sri Lanka), Kataragama (protector of the south) and the goddess Pattini (goddess of health and fertility). Traditionally, this was a ritual performed to ask the gods for blessings on the King and the people.
For the next five nights, festive dancing and drumming are held outside each of the temples. On the sixth night of the festival, processions begin from each shrine and parade toward the Temple of the Tooth. The processions get longer and more magnificent for the next three nights.
The highlight is on the last night of the processions: an enormous elephant carries a gold casket containing a replica of the Tooth Relic as the drummers and dancers enthrall the crowd along the route. The drummers and dancers themselves are followed by elephants and other groups of musicians, dancers and flag bearers.
After nights of processions, a water cutting ceremony brings the festival to an end at dawn, when priests representing each of the four temples walk into the Mahaweli River, “cut” a circle in the water with a sword and fill pitchers with water from within the circle. The water is kept till the next year’s Esala Perahera, when the pitcher will be freshly filled again.
The next day, Kandyan chieftains in ancient regalia, march to the Presidential mansion in Kandy, following royal tradition, to report to the Head of State, the successful completion of the annual event.
The story behind the tooth is as follows:
It was believed that if the Bodhi Tree that came into contact with the Buddha had the power to bring rains, then the parts of His own body had much greater power to invite rains. With this in mind, the sacred tooth relic was brought all the way from Kalinga in India to the island of Sri Lanka in the fourth century AD. At the time, the sacred tooth relic was brought to Sri Lanka, the king was Sri Megha varna. His name itself meant ‘the Resplendent one whose complexion is that of the Rain-cloud’.
The time when the sacred tooth was brought to Sri Lanka was around six centuries after the sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree was brought into the island country. However, very soon, the popularity of the sacred tooth surpassed that of the Bodhi Tree. The simple reason for this was that it could be moved any number of times from one place to another, very unlike the Bodhi Tree itself. Also, the possesion of the tooth relic soon became a matter of power and claim to rule the land. The king who had possession of the tooth relic had the authority to rule the land and, wars were fought to keep the relic from falling into hostile hands.
This is amply manifested in the attempt made by the kings when the Europeans enhanced their power in the island country. King Senarath quickly transported the relic a little distance away from Kandy when the Portuguese came to close for his comfort. Later, the significance of the tooth relic became known to the Europeans themselves. They wasted no time and made it their primary goal to get hold of the precious relic. The British succeeded in 1818, and the people themselves gave up all efforts to prevent the former from ruling them, all because the British possessed the tooth relic.
Historically, a number of festivals were celebrated to honor the sacred tooth relic right from time it came to Sri Lanka. Initially, processions or peraheras were taken out for the tooth relic alone. However, later, the festival was incorporated with another festival meant to appease the rain god, the Esala peraheras. At this time, a Kandyan king, Kirti Shri Rajasinghe was in power and he made it possible for the common people to worship the relic by announcing that it would be taken out in a procession for the masses to see and offer their prayers. Before this, the tooth relic was the property of the king and the common people were not allowed to worship it.
Source: Wikipedia and My Odyssey Tours
Knut the Reaper is possibly the original Grim Reaper, complete with the appearance of a skeleton clad in dark flowing robes wielding a scythe. In Norse mythology he enjoys commemoration on July 10 with the goddesses (Hel or Hela, Holda and Skadi) of the shades and underworlds Helheim and Niflheim.
Traditional processions of huge effigies of giants, animals or dragons encompass an original ensemble of festive popular manifestations and ritual representations. These effigies first appeared in urban religious processions at the end of the fourteenth century in many European towns and continue to serve as emblems of identity for certain Belgian (Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons) and French towns (Cassel, Douai, Pézenas and Tarascon), where they remain living traditions.
The giants and dragons are large-scale models measuring up to nine metres in height and weighing as much as 350 kilos. They represent mythical heroes or animals, contemporary local figures, historical, biblical or legendary characters or trades. St. George fighting the dragon is staged in Mons; Bayard, the horse from the Charlemagne legend, parades in Dendermonde; and Reuze Papa and Reuze Maman, popular family characters, parade at Cassel.
The performances, often mixing secular procession and religious ceremony, vary from town to town, but always follow a precise ritual in which the giants relate to the history, legend or life of the town.
July 1st is Canada Day, a holiday that marks Canada’s independence from Great Britain which took place in 1982.
There is no standard mode of celebration for Canada Day; Jennifer Welsh, a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, said about this: “Canada Day, like the country, is endlessly decentralized. There doesn’t seem to be a central recipe for how to celebrate it—chalk it up to the nature of the federation.
Most communities across the country will host organized celebrations for Canada Day, typically outdoor public events, such as parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows, fireworks, and free musical concerts, as well as citizenship ceremonies.
However, the locus of the celebrations is the national capital, Ottawa, Ontario, where large concerts and cultural displays are held on Parliament Hill, with the governor general and prime minister typically officiating, though the monarch or another member of the Royal Family may also attend or take the governor general’s place.
Hawaii is the only American state that was once a kingdom with its own monarchy. One of the greatest kings was King Kamehameha I, also called, appropriately, Kamehameha the Great. His name means “the very lonely one” or “the one set apart.” A statue of him can be found in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
King Kamehameha I probably was born some time around 1758, the year when Halley’s comet became visible over Hawaii. A courageous warrior, the king conquered and united the entire Hawaiian islands into one kingdom. During his reign, which lasted from 1782 to 1819, Hawaii became an important center in the fur and sandalwood trades.
The last king in the Kamehameha dynasty was King Kamehameha V, who ruled from 1863 to 1872. During this time, the king proclaimed June 11 as a day to honor his grandfather, King Kamehameha I.
The most important ritual of the celebration dates back to 1901 after the Territory of Hawaii was established. It is the afternoon draping ceremony in which the Kamehameha Statue in front of Aliʻiolani Hale and ʻIolani Palace on King Street in downtown Honolulu is draped in long strands of lei. The same is done at the Kamehameha Statue on the former monarch’s home island, the Big Island of Hawaii. Outside of the state, a similar draping ceremony is held at the United States Capitol where the Kamehameha Statue there is also draped in lei in the company of federal officials.
Late 19th century celebrations of Kamehameha Day featured carnivals and fairs, foot races, horse races and velocipede races. Today, Kamehameha Day is treated with elaborate events harkening back to ancient Hawaii, respecting the cultural traditions that Kamehameha defended as his society was slowly shifting towards European trends.
The King Kamehameha Hula Competition attracts hula groups from all over the world to the Neil S. Blaisdell Center for the two-day event. Prizes are awarded on the second night.
A floral parade is held annually at various locations throughout the state of Hawaii. On the island of Oahu, the parade runs from ʻIolani Palace in downtown Honolulu past Honolulu Harbor and the Prince Kūhiō Federal Building through Kakaʻako, Ala Moana and Waikīkī, ending at Kapiʻolani Park.
June 11 is also the anniversary of the dedication of Kapiʻolani Park. The floral parade features local marching bands—including the Royal Hawaiian Band (the oldest municipal band in the United States)—and artistically designed floats using native flowers and plants. Many local companies enter floats for their employees.
A favorite floral parade feature is the traditional royal paʻu riders. They represent a royal court led by a queen on horseback, followed by princesses representing the eight major islands of Hawaii and Molokini. Each princess is attended by paʻu ladies in waiting. Paʻu women are dressed in colorful and elegant 19th century riding gowns accented with lei and other floral arrangements.
After the parade, the state celebrates a Hoʻolauleʻa, literally celebration, or block party with food and music. Cultural exhibitions are also scattered throughout Kapiʻolani Park—arts and crafts, games, sports, and other events planned by the Bishop Museum, the premier Hawaiian cultural institution.
On the Island of Hawaii, there are three floral parades held. One between the towns of Hawi and Kapaʻau and one in the town of Hilo. There is a King Kamehameha Day Celebration Parade and Ho`olaule`a in Kailua Kona on Ali`i Drive each year. There is also a lei draping ceremony in Kapaau at the statue of King Kamehameha there.
At the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians allowed the founding of a sanctuary for the Goddess Bendis and shortly afterward created a state festival, the Bendideia, for her.The first celebration was held on the 19th of Thargelion (May–June), 429 BC, at the Piraeus, the seaport of Athens.
Many pagan calendars list June 6th as the modern equivalent date for this festival honoring the Moon Goddess of Thrace. Other sources give that her festivals were held on the full moon preceding or coinciding with the solstice – and if so, the dates would vary from year to year.
For a description of the festival we have this excerpt of a conversation between Socrates and a friend describing that festival (from Plato’s Republic):
Sokrates: “I went down yesterday to the Peiraios (Piraeus) with Glaukon (Glaucon), the son of Ariston, to pay my devotions to the Goddess [Bendis], and also because I wished to see how they would conduct the festival since this was its inauguration. I thought the procession of the citizens very fine, but it was no better than the show, made by the marching of the Thrakian contingent [i.e. the mercenary force who policed ancient Athens]. After we had said our prayers and seen the spectacle we were starting for town . . . “
‘Do you mean to say,’ interposed Adeimantus, ‘that you haven’t heard that there is to be a torchlight race this evening on horseback in honor of the Goddess?’
‘On horseback?’ said I. ‘That is a new idea. Will they carry torches and pass them along to one another as they race with the horses, or how do you mean?’
‘That’s the way of it,’ said Polemarkhos, ‘and, besides, there is to be a night festival which will be worth seeing. For after dinner we will get up and go out and see the sights and meet a lot of the lads there and have good talk . . . Let this complete your entertainment, Sokrates, at the festival of Bendis.’
Flores de Mayo (Spanish for “flowers of May”) is a festival held in the Philippines in the month of May. It is one of the May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lasts for the entire month.
The Santacruzan (from the Spanish santa cruz, “holy cross”) is the ritual pageant held on the last day of the Flores de Mayo. It honors the finding of the True Cross by Helena of Constantinople (known as Reyna Elena) and Constantine the Great. Its connection with May stems from the old May 3 date of Roodmas, which Pope John XXIII abolished in 1960 in favour of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14
- In the Bicol Region, the ritual begins with the recitation of the rosary, and the last day is simply called the “katapusan”.
- In Western Visayas, the towns have their respective chapels where an image of the Virgin Mary is venerated and children gather to have a simple catechism and teachings about the life and story of Mary. They were also taught some prayers and songs recited only during the Flores de Mayo and the children offer flowers before the image of the Virgin Mary as a symbol of love, affection and veneration.
- Some churches and areas give children paper tickets for actively participating during the catechism and at the end of the month of May, the children redeem the value of the tickets which are school supplies ready for the school opening in June. Santacrusan is usually held during the last few days of May to coincide with the end of the catechism for children.
- Amongst the Tagalog people, the custom began after the publication of Mariano Sevilla’s translation of the devotional “Flores de María” or “Beautiful Flowers that in the Meditations in the Whole Month of May are Offered by Devotees to Mary Most Holy.”
- One famous May tradition in Batangas is the Luglugan, or nightly devotion and party honoring the Virgin Mary. Held in structures called tuklóng, devotees offer flowers and prayers to an image of Mary every night. After the prayer, the Hermanos or Hermanas for the day will give away treats to the participants, followed by the party. The Luglugan lasts for a month until the Tapusan (“ending”) which is marked with a Mass, a Santacruzan and procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and capped with a final Luglugan that lasts until the following morning.
- A Santacruzan is a religio-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns, and even in small communities throughout the Philippines during the month of May.
The Santacruzan Procession and Pageant
One of the most colorful aspects of this festival, the pageant depicts the finding of the True Cross by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Many movie and television personalities participate in the events and are featured in major santacruzan. This festival became part of Filipino traditions identified with youth, love, and romance.
Prior to the Santacruzan, a novena is held in honor of the Holy Cross. The procession itself commemorates the search of the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, Emperor Constantine. It is said to have roots in the joyous thanksgiving celebrations that followed the finding of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and its translation to Constantinople (now İstanbul).
The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of a local brass band, playing and singing the Dios te salve (the Spanish version of the Hail Mary). Devotees hold lighted candles and sing the prayer as they walk. It is customary for males participating in the Santacruzan to wear the traditional Barong Tagalog and that the females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress.
After the procession in some places, there is the pabítin game (in Cavite, it is called “agaw-bitin”) that serves as a culminating activity for the children. The pabítin is a square-shaped bamboo grille or frame to which goodies (candies, fruits, small trinkets, etc.) are tied with thin strings.
This grille in turn is tied to a long rope passed over a strong branch or pole some 2 metres above the ground. Children then gather under the frame as the it is slowly lowered, and they then jump as high as they could to grab the goodies while someone jerks it up and down repeatedly until all the prizes are gone.
Sometimes the palosebo (the local version of the greasy pole) is also played, where a tall bamboo pole is smeared with grease which participants must climb to get a small red banner or a bag with a prize, such as ₱500 or a higher amount.
For a Magickal Flores de Mayo
From 360 Goddess, we have a different version of, and way to celebrate the Flores de Mayo. This can be celebrated any time during the month of May, or on the last day, as a sort of magickal Santacruzan.
- Themes: Offering; Prayer; Love; Devotion; Home; Relationships
- Symbols: Spring; May Blossoming Flowers
- Presiding Goddess: Sisina
This Filipino goddess oversees the realms of orderliness, beauty, and love. Traditionally, she protects marriages against discord, but she may also be called upon to settle inner turmoil within your soul and restore self-love.
To do today:
People in the Philippines say good-bye to May with bouquets, flower offerings, and an array of sweet foods to honor the month’s sweetness and beauty. Sometimes they ask Sisina to join the festivities by setting a place for her at the table.
This particular custom appears in several other cultures and it is a simple, lovely way of honoring the goddess. Just leave a plate with a fresh flower on your dinner table. This draws Sisina’s presence, love, and peaceful nature to your home and family relationships. If you wish, also leave an offering of sweet bread or fruity wine in a special spot to thank her.
As you go about your normal routine today, take time to enjoy any flowers you see, and be very considerate of the special people in your life. Sisina will see the effort and continue blessing those relationships with harmony.
The Furry Dance, also known as The Flora (or incorrectly as the Floral Dance), takes place in Helston, Cornwall, and is one of the oldest British customs still practiced today. The Dance takes place every year on May 8 (or the Saturday before if May 8 falls on a Sunday or Monday), and is a celebration of the passing of Winter and the arrival of Spring.
The dance is very well attended every year. Winter’s gone, so everybody’s out in the streets to celebrate the new life springing up all around. It seems like the whole of Cornwall is lining the streets, all freshly decorated with colourful flowers
The four dances and a Hal-an-Tow (a mystery play), spread across the day, starting with the first dance at 7.00 am, continuing with the children’s dance at 10.00 am, then the midday dance and culminating in the evening dance at 5.00 pm. Of these, the midday dance is perhaps the best known: it was traditionally the dance of the gentry in the town, and today the men wear top hats and tails while the women dance in their finest frocks.
The Dance twists and turns its way through this ancient Cornish town and the route doesn’t change, even if that means that the Flora Dance has to traipse through people’s houses, across their gardens or straight through the shops.
The whole town is decorated with greenery, many of the people are wearing greenery outfits and the Town Band play all day long, providing music to the dancers, they have a splash of greenery in their hats too, you’ll notice this is Lily of the Valley, which is Helston’s symbolic flower. The gentlemen wear it on the left, with the flowers pointing upwards, and the ladies wear it upside down on the right.
Originally, most likely, a May Day celebration, it was moved to May 8th to commemorate the town’s patron saint, St Michael, who is said to have saved the town from what appears to be a meteorite hit in AD 495, you can still see the boulder that crashed down as it’s still visible as a wall in the Angel Yard.
Source: Cornish Festivals
Have Your Own Furry Dance:
The Furry Dance is an ancient festival that rejoices in spring’s warmth and beauty. To bring this energy into your life, it’s customary to dance with a partner. In fact, the more people you can get dancing, the more fortunate the energy! Usually this is done on the streets throughout a town as a show of regional unity, but when propriety won’t allow such a display, just dance around a room together instead. Don’t worry about the steps – just do what feels right.
- Themes: Unity; Joy; Luck
- Symbols: Flowers; Triangle
- Presiding Goddess: Tanat
In Cornwall, Tanat is the mother goddess of fertility who has given all her attention to nursing spring into its fullness. She also staunchly protects her children (nature and people) so that our spirits can come to know similar fulfillment.
Wearing something with floral or triangular motifs (guys, wear a necktie, and gals, pull out a square scarf and fold it crosswise) activates Tanat’s happiness in your life and in any region where you have the token on today. As you don the item, say:
Liberate happiness in and around,
by Tanat’s blossoming power, joy will be found!
Or if you want to use the same thing to generate unity and harmony, use this incantation:
Harmony and unity,
Tanat’s blessings come to me.
From: 365 Goddess
The Megalisia was a Phrygian festival in honor of Cybele, the Magna Mater. This was a festival with games celebrated at Rome in the month of April and in honor of the great mother of the gods. Following the advice of the Sibylline oracle on how to end the Punic wars, the meteorite which represented Cybele was brought from Phrygia to Rome in 204 BCE where it was installed in the Temple of victory on April 4th. The day of its arrival was solemnized with a magnificent procession, lectisternia, and games, and great numbers of people carried presents to the goddess at the Capitol.
The following harvest was great and the war ended the next year.
The regular celebration of the Megalesia, however, did not begin until about a dozen years later, when the temple which had been vowed and ordered to be built in 203 B.C., was completed and dedicated by M. Iunius Brutus.
The Romans began the celebrations with a parade, in which an image of the Goddess, Cybele, was carried through the streets in a chariot drawn by lions, her animals. The castrated priests who served her danced alongside, playing timbrels and cymbals and gashing themselves. Lucretius says “with bronze and silver they strew all the paths of her journey … and snow rose-blossoms over her.”Rome, commemorating the arrival of the goddess to her Roman Temple.”
The festival lasted for six days, beginning on the 4th of April. The season of this festival, like that of the whole month in which it took place, was full of general rejoicings and feasting. It was customary for the wealthy Romans on this occasion to invite one another mutually to their repasts, and the extravagant habits and the good living during these festive days were probably carried to a very high degree. For that reason, a senatusconsultum was issued in 161 B. C., prescribing that no one should go beyond a certain extent of expenditure.
The games which were held at the Megalesia were purely scenic, and not circenses. They were at first held on the Palatine in front of the temple of the goddess, but afterwards also in the theaters.
The first ludi scenici at Rome were, according to Valerius Antias, introduced at the Megalesia, either in 193 or 191 b.c. The day which was especially set apart for the performance of scenic plays was the third of the festival.
Slaves were not permitted to be present at the games, and the magistrates appeared dressed in a purple toga and praetexta, whence the proverb, purpura Megalensis. The games were under the superintendence of the Curule Aediles, and we know that four of the extant plays of Terence were performed at the Megalesia. Cicero, probably contrasting the games of the Megalesia with the more rude and barbarous games and exhibitions of the circus, calls them maxime casti, solemnes, religiosi.
The book, 365 Goddess, describes this festival as a Roman Festival celebrating the accuracy of the Sibylline oracles, who predicted the way for the Roman victory in the Punic Wars. Her suggestions for celebrating this ancient festival is as follows:
- Themes: Divination, Protection, Victory, Children, Birth, Communication.
- Symbols: The written word, Divination tools, Fertility symbols.
- Rulers: The Carmenae.
The Carmenae is a group of goddesses who correspond to the Muses of Greek tradition; they know our past, see what’s in store in the future, foretell children’s fates, and teach us the effective use of “letters” (the alphabet), the arts, and how to tell fortunes. They also oversee midwives.
Romans traditionally honored the goddesses today with music and song, so put on some magical tunes! The Carmenae will saturate the music and uplift your spirit.
Ask the Carmenae to help you write personalized invocations or spells today. Put pen to pad and let these goddesses inspire sacred words suited to your path and needs. Keep these in a magick journal for future use.
The Roman oracles often drew lots to determine a querent’s answer. If you have a question weighing heavily on your heart today, follow this custom and take out some variegated beans. Hold them. Concentrate on the question, then pick out one bean. A black one means “no”; white means “yes.” Red means that anger is driving action, brown means things are muddled, and green indicates growth potential. If you don’t have the beans, colored buttons or beads are a suitable alternative.
March 17 commemorates Saint Patrick, the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. In addition, this day also celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.
Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilithe (Irish traditional music sessions), and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. There are also formal gatherings such as banquets and dances, although these were more common in the past. St Patrick’s Day parades began in North America in the 18th century but did not spread to Ireland until the 20th century.
The participants generally include marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organisations, charitable organisations, voluntary associations, youth groups, fraternities, and so on. However, over time, many of the parades have become more akin to a carnival. More effort is made to use the Irish language; especially in Ireland, where the week of St Patrick’s Day is “Irish language week”. Recently, famous landmarks have been lit up in green on St Patrick’s Day.
Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day. Perhaps because of this, drinking alcohol – particularly Irish whiskey, beer or cider – has become an integral part of the celebrations.
The St Patrick’s Day custom of ‘drowning the shamrock‘ or ‘wetting the shamrock‘ was historically popular, especially in Ireland. At the end of the celebrations, shamrock is put into the bottom of a cup, which is then filled with whiskey, beer or cider. It is then drank as a toast; to St Patrick, to Ireland, or to those present. The shamrock would either be swallowed with the drink, or be taken out and tossed over the shoulder for good luck.
In every household the herb is placed upon the breakfast table of the master and the mistress, who “drown the shamrock” in generous draughts of whiskey, and then send the bottle down into the kitchen for the servants.
On St Patrick’s Day it is customary to wear shamrocks and/or green clothing or accessories (the “wearing of the green”). St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older.
Long before the shamrock became associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the four-leaf clover was regarded by ancient Celts as a charm against evil spirits.
In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided St Patrick in his evangelisation efforts. Patricia Monaghan says there is no evidence that the shamrock was sacred to the pagan Irish. However, Jack Santino speculates that it may have represented the regenerative powers of nature, and was recast in a Christian context—icons of St Patrick often depict the saint “with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other”. Roger Homan writes, “We can perhaps see St Patrick drawing upon the visual concept of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the Trinity”.
In the early 1900’s, O. H. Benson, an Iowa school superintendent, came up with the idea of using a clover as the emblem for a newly founded agricultural club for children in his area. In 1911, the four-leaf clover was chosen as the emblem for the national club program, later named 4-H.
The color green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640’s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick’s Day since at least the 1680s. The Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, an Irish fraternity founded in about 1750, adopted green as its color.
However, when the Order of St. Patrick—an Anglo-Irish chivalric order—was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its color, which led to blue being associated with St Patrick. During the 1790’s, green would become associated with Irish nationalism, due to its use by the United Irishmen. This was a republican organisation—led mostly by Protestants but with many Catholic members—who launched a rebellion in 1798 against British rule.
The phrase “wearing of the green” comes from a song of the same name, which laments United Irishmen supporters being persecuted for wearing green. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the color green and its association with St Patrick’s Day grew.
The wearing of the ‘St Patrick’s Day Cross’ was also a popular custom in Ireland until the early 20th century. These were a Celtic Christian cross made of paper that was “covered with silk or ribbon of different colors, and a bunch or rosette of green silk in the center”.
The most popular of the many legends about St. Patrick is the one which credits him for having driven all the snakes and vermin out of Ireland.
Here’s an old old poem about it:
There’s not a mile in Ireland’s isle
where the dirty vermin musters;
Where’er he put his dear forefoot
he murdered them in clusters.
The toads went hop, the frogs went flop,
slap dash into the water,
And the beasts committed suicide to
save themselves from slaughter.
Nine hundred thousand vipers blue
he charmed with sweet discourses.
And dined on them at Killaloo
in soups and second courses.
When blindworms crawling on the grass
disgusted all the nation,
He gave them a rise and opened their eyes
to a sense of the situation.
The Wicklow Hills are very high, and
so’s the Hill of Howth, sir;
But there’s a hill much higher still—ay,
higher than them both, sir;
‘Twas on the top of this high hill St.
Patrick preached the sarmint
That drove the frogs into the bogs and
bothered all the varmint.
About St Patrick
Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Much of what is known about Saint Patrick comes from the Declaration, which was allegedly written by Patrick himself. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church.
According to the Declaration, at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. ] It says that he spent six years there working as a shepherd and that during this time he “found God”. The Declaration says that God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. After making his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.
According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelising in the northern half of Ireland and converted “thousands”. Patrick’s efforts against the druids were eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove “snakes” out of Ireland (Ireland never had any snakes).
Tradition holds that he died on 17 March and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.
What many people don’t realize is that the serpent was actually a metaphor for the early Pagan faiths of Ireland. St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle, and did such a good job of it that he practically eliminated Paganism from the country. Because of this, some modern Pagans refuse to observe a day which honors the elimination of the old religion in favor of a new one. It’s not uncommon to see Pagans and Wiccans wearing some sort of snake symbol on St. Patrick’s Day, instead of those green “Kiss Me I’m Irish” badges.