Observed mainly by the Irish and those of the Catholic faith, St. Patrick's Day commemorates the spread of Christianity into Ireland and the surrounding areas. In many cultures, chief among them Irish, the day is celebrated as a local holiday. Although recognized and celebrated in the United States of America, it is not considered a national holiday.
It has been celebrated to some extent since at least the ninth century, and perhaps much earlier. Although it did not begin as a holiday, it was considered a widely known "feast day" by the Catholic Church. Not until around 1600 did it transform into the holiday we recognize today. On very rare occasions, St. Patrick's Day is moved from its typically celebrated home of March 17 in order to avoid falling upon a Palm Sunday or other church obligated holiday. The last was in 2008, and this will not happen again until the year 2160.
Historically, Lenten fasting is broken on St. Patrick's Day, and as such the holiday has become widely associated with drinking and festivity. Those of the Catholic Church hold special programs for the day, and mass is generally held as well. The day's feasting traditionally consists of dishes known to be of Irish descent such as corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, soda bread, rum raisin rice pudding, and the tasty Guinness float.
Traditions vary by country, as with most other holidays. Canadians have fought sporadically to have St. Patrick's Day recognized as a national holiday, yet to no avail. They have one of the largest parades for the holiday on the continent in celebration. Because another similar festival often falls on St. Patrick's Day in Great Britain, horse racing is associated with the holiday.
It's easy to see why obtaining a crock pot might be a good idea if one is to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with traditional cuisine, as it's a phenomenal means of whipping up a meal of corned beef and cabbage without too much a fuss. A crock pot leaves many of the nutrients and flavors intact, and is one of the most preferred methods of cooking or tenderizing various meats. The meal goes perfectly with a traditional glass of Guinness. A variety of breads are also widely sought after on St. Patrick's Day, so it might be time to pick up a new bread loaf pan to commemorate the occasion.
No matter how you celebrate St. Patrick's Day, it's a great opportunity to take a step back a show appreciate for beliefs that may be different than your own. What better day to experience new traditions and break from your own than St. Patrick's Day, a holiday known for its association with letting loose and having a little bit of fun as we look forward to spring!