Ireland’s neighbors have their Patron Saints too!
By Adam Miller
Once a year, people dress up in green and drink Guinness all in honor of Ireland’s Patron Saint, Saint Patrick; a honorable man who was once held captive in Ireland, and fled back to his home country of England (please don’t hate me for saying this!)
After becoming a fully-fledged clergyman, he returned to Ireland and taught about the Holy Trinity, using the shamrock (that thing they draw on top of your beer) as a teaching aid.
A truly determined man by anyone’s standards, inspiring Chicago to dye its river green in his honor, or for people worldwide to claim Irish heritage even if the only Irish in their family is a third cousin’s wife’s uncle.
What many don’t know is that Ireland’s neighbours also have their own Patron Saints, each of which are pretty much ignored! Never fear, because NAGMAG is here to school you on three more excuses to get plastered every year and all in the name of history:
Wales – St. David’s Day – March 1st
St. David’s day falls on March 1st, which is said to be the day he died, around the end of the 6th century. St. David set up the Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin, which is now the sight of the St. David’s Cathedral. Before he died he said this to his peers:
“Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil”
The national holiday has had its fair share of scandal however. In 2007, a petition to make St. David’s Day a national holiday was rejected by the British government; but less bureaucratic and far more bloody were the counter-celebrations Englishmen in London enjoyed in the 17th and 18th centuries, in which hand-crafted Welsh dolls were lynched in the streets.
Today, the celebrations are still strong in Wales, with Cardiff holding the biggest parade in the country. The water in the Swansea Castle Square Fountain are dyed red and even New York got involved recently, as in 2003 they recognized the day as the official Welsh holiday and lit the Empire State Building in white, red and green, the national colors of Wales.
Wear: White Red and Green
Drink: Guinness! The recipe for Guinness’ stout was Welsh (according to a Welshman.)
Scotland – St. Andrew – November 30th
Although the Welsh got rejected, the Patron Saint of Scotland, St. Andrew, was given bank holiday rights back in 2007. Unlike St. David, who was born and raised in Wales, St. Andrew is a little more biblical and he was venerated as the Patron Saint of Scotland around the 10th century, although there is an awesome legend from a little before that:
Back in the year 832, it is said that a one Oengus II, the leader of the Picts, was fighting against the invading Angles, who had already cut through England, becoming the most successful “settlers” since post-Roman times in Britain. Facing an army far outnumbering his own, Oengus II prayed to St. Andrew to please give some divine intervention and save his bacon from the Angles, as people in a hairy situation often do.
The morning of the bloody battle came around and in the crisp blue sky (it doesn’t ALWAYS rain in Britain), clouds formed to make a white cross in the sky, which Oengus II took as a representation of the crucifix St. Andrew was killed on. The holy signal was sufficient encouragement to smash some skulls and he led his troops to victory, naming St. Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland as he had promised. Now you know why the Scottish flag is blue and white!
Drink: Irn Bru
England – St. George – April 23rd
England has a strange one! St. George is the Patron Saint of over a dozen countries worldwide. All of them see George the dragon slayer as a symbol of bravery and heroism.
George’s saintly deed however, was appearing to inspire soldiers fighting in the crusades, after which he became such a symbol that churches were named after him nationwide. In 1222 St. George’s day became an official feast day and St. George’s cross (the red cross on a white background) became a symbol of England, including the flag that flew on the Mayflower as it approached American shores for the first time.
Although celebrations became less hearty after England and Scotland’s union towards the end of the 18th century, but it seems to be going through a resurgence in popularity, even though the St. has no real tie to English history.
To celebrate St. George’s day, people can simply wear a rose in their lapel (very dashing) or indulge in a little tradition known as Morris dancing, something I was subjected to at school and from which I have never fully recovered… the bells, the sticks, the ribbons!!! Oh the horror!
Drink: St. George’s Beer (from Ethiopia!)