I was yesterday years old when I found out that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t quite what I have been led to believe. As a proud Irish descendent (Noonan – from the Gaelic Sept O’Nuanain or O’hIonmhaineain, which is from the Gaelic word ‘ionmhain’ meaning ‘beloved’. Fun fact: we lost the O’ as punishment for stealing horses!), I’ve been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as an actual Irishman for as long as I can remember.
I never sat and thought, though, what St. Patrick’s Day was really about. As a kid, you’re told it was this guy who banished snakes from Ireland – cool, I don’t like snakes. Sounds like my kind of guy!
But wait. Thanks to the last ice age, there actually were never any snakes in Ireland to banish… so, what’s with the tale?
It turns out that St. Patrick was actually a Catholic missionary charged with spreading Christianity in Ireland, previously a “Pagan” and Druidic land. By the way, this was around 450 AD, so there isn’t a super clear story here.
It is known for a fact, though, that the snake was a symbol of one Druidic clan in particular. So… St. Patrick banished the snakes. In essence, one might say he was responsible for the destruction of Paganism in Ireland.
A saint to some, the devil to others. And I suppose that’s how history goes. An act is celebrated by one side, and often means destruction to another.
And why am I even sharing this? For one, I think it’s important to question what and why we celebrate something. And two, I think it’s only respectful to attempt to share both sides of the story.
As farmers, and as people who create teas, tonics, and more from the land, I think we must also tip our caps to the peoples who kept the knowledge alive. The ones not being celebrated this day.
So even though St. Patrick’s Day actually started in Boston in the 1800’s, by Irish immigrants missing home, and drinking alcohol on the day was actually frowned upon until Budweiser’s marketing campaign in the 1980’s, I will still celebrate my Irish heritage. Just with a bit more understanding.