St. Patrick’s Day at the Tampa Area
Roman Catholics around the world mark March 17 as the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of the whole Ireland. During this day, believers make it customary to wish other people good health, and wear and eat something green, as St. Patrick is greatly associated with good health. Since green is the color of vegetables, it is used to represent thus. While the celebration is more common among the Irish folks, Catholics in the U.S., Australia, England, and some other Western countries celebrate St. Patrick’s day with reference to the Irish tradition and memoirs St. Patrick left to Ireland.
Who is St. Patrick?
St. Patrick, otherwise known as St. Patricius was born in Dumbarton, near Scotland in the year 387. According to Markey (2006), when St. Patrick was 16, some British brigands kidnapped him and brought him to Ireland. There, he was sold as a slave in the county of Antrim, where he served in bondage for six years until he escaped to Gaul, the present-day France, and finally returned to his parents’ home in Britain. One night, Patricius had a vision that he would preach to the Irish. In response to this call, he entered priesthood and studied for 14 years.
Later, when he returned to Ireland, St.Patrick served as the moving force to drive away druidism in the land. Moran (1911) narrates that the druids, by their incantations, cast a dark “worse than Egyptian darkness.” St. Patrick challenged them to remove the cloud, but after all efforts were made, the druids’ incantations did not prove enough. After which, St. Patrick prayed and the sun shone brightly. At another occasion, Arch-Druid Lochru, a druid who possessed demonic power, lifted himself up in the air, but when Patrick knelt in prayer, the man instantly dashed down, and died as he crashed on the ground.
News about St. Patrick reached the king, thus he and his magistrate bowed down before the missionary, accepting the faith of Christianity. Later, St. Patrick built churches and preached the Christian doctrine for more or less 30 years. One of the myths associated with him is the act of driving away snakes from Ireland to the seas, where the serpents were said to drown. Since snakes are not common to the land, some treat the myth symbolically, claiming that the serpents could simply represent the non-believers or those in druidic religions whom St. Patrick converted to Christianity during his mission in the land.
In the U.S., especially along Tampa, Florida, St. Patrick ’s Day does not seem as a Christian tradition. Instead of commemorating the saint, the celebration becomes an excuse to party and enjoy the nightlife. Aside from some Irish music, dances, beer, food and costumes, nothing else reveals the Irish and Christian tradition in memory of the great saint. Instead, parties, beer-drinking, merry-making, parades and dancing highlight the festivities.
The restaurants along the area each have their own attractions for the day. Some activities were merely for fun, while others intended to promote good health among the people. Particularly, the American Lung Association hosted its 4th Annual Climb Tampa where hundreds of people pushed their way to a vertical climb of 42 flights. This was a fund-raising activity for the organization, which aimed to promote great lungs. After the climb, climbers were given an official “Climb Tampa” shirt and bag, signifying their achievement for the day. Noticeably, the theme of green was emphasized among those who wanted to promote good health. This included serving green leafy vegetables, salads, wearing green shirts of hats, and bunch of green decors.
Some restaurants hosted their own parades. In particular, Tommy Duff’s Irish Aviation Pub hosted the “World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade” with participants carrying Irish flags and posters, marching their way from the Clearwater Causeway to the Tiki Deck in some Irish costumes, hats and beads. Fun and health are two words to define the activities for the day. Many people gathered at buffet banquets that included a lot of green vegetables, along with some Irish dishes and drinks. At around eight in the evening, many people gathered for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Night Parade hosted by a non-profit organization called Rough Riders. The parade was filled with ornamental floats and brightly-colored beads that reflect some Irish sense. The parade commences with a late-night party, where one can really get drunk. A minimum fee of USD5 was needed for entrance, and security was not tight as many youngsters attended. Along with drinking, there were some mini shows where bands played modern and Irish music. Beer overflowed as the night approached to end.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was all about fun and health. The activities could easily remind us of the gaily Irish attitude and traditions. However, the essence of the celebration, which was to commemorate St. Patrick’s sacrifice to redeem people from the evil effects of druidism could neither be felt nor seen. While the food, drinks, activities, floats and costumes seem very Irish, the people at Tampa Bay seemed to forget the real essence of the celebration.
Markey, Sean. “St. Patrick Day’s Facts: Beyond the Blarney.” National Geographic News. 2006. Retrieved 20 March 2009 ;http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/03/0315_050315_stpatricksday.html;.
Moran, Patrick Francis Cardinal. “St. Patrick.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. Retrieved 25 Mar. 2009 ;http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm;.