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Why Do People Keep Pinching Me? The Origins of 4 St. Patrick's Day Traditions, Explained


Being told to put on a green sweater and enjoy some corned beef seems like a completely random demand on most days — but tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, so don your finest verdant vestments. Ever wonder why we do the things we do on St. Patrick’s Day? You’re not alone. An originally religious Irish holiday has become a day of parades, beer, leprechauns, and wearing green in the United States — but how did that happen? Learn more about the origins of St. Patrick’s Day traditions and why we celebrate them the way we do below. 

What is St. Patrick’s Day about?

It’s not about green beer — and really, it never was. The day celebrates Roman citizen Maewyn Succat who was kidnapped at age 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave in the 4th century. He escaped, came back to Ireland later in life as a priest, and changed his name to Patrick, which comes from the Latin word for “father.” He was responsible for converting many Irish people to Christianity; he established schools, churches, and monasteries, and even inspired legends that he drove all the snakes (common symbols of Satan) out of the country.

The celebrations began in the 15th century when the Church held a feast honoring St. Patrick,…

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