Photo by Rashmiya Ilankeswaran

It’s the one day a year that anyone can feel a little bit Irish.

St. Patrick’s Day, is celebrated every year on March 17, and has become known for its raucous parades and parties, its necessity for green, and its guilt-free drinking.

“It’s a day to drink green beers … Go a little [crazy], have a party,” says first-year Ryerson student Gurpreet Grewal.

However, there is much more to the Irish holiday than what is often celebrated.

“Booze is almost the sole focus. Lots of people definitely like a drink on the day in Ireland, but there’s more to it than that,” said Kevin McAnena, a member of Toronto’s Irish community.

“It’s very heartening to see that our heritage is well enough regarded around the world that other countries want to join in … Sure, Irish pubs are fun, but there’s so much more to Irish culture and it’s a bit offensive to have it reduced to that by people who have no connection to Ireland itself.”

 

So what are the celebrations really about?

The holiday is named for St. Patrick, who is credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland as a missionary centuries ago. Over time, his legend grew and he was named the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick is remembered each March 17, the day he is said to have died.

The Irish have celebrated this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. Historically, since St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lenten when Irish families typically would not eat meat, the restrictions on eating and drinking were temporarily restricted and the holiday was celebrated with a feast and a visit to the local church.

According to McAnena, the holiday has spread to other parts of the world as the Irish have emigrated and brought with them the tradition of celebrating their patron saint every March 17. While the scale of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations depend on their location, in North America, and particularly in Toronto, celebrations can often be over-the-top due to the city’s large Irish diaspora and the many non-Irish who participate.

Abbey Kelly, a first-year Ryerson student whose family is from Siglo, Ireland, has been celebrating the holiday since she was young.

“I celebrate by wearing an [absurd] amount of green, drinking more than I should, and hopefully dancing or at least being around fun music.”

And to Kelly, the more the merrier.

“It’s a day to celebrate togetherness with family and friends, and anyone is welcome to join in the excitement.”

 Infographic by Krizia Ramos

 

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