While many might associate St. Patrick’s Day with the color green, shamrocks, or Ireland, there is a deeper history to the celebration than just festive merriment.
Reverend Raymond Dunmyer, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Montevallo, explains some of the history to the holiday, which is celebrated on March 17.
“There is a tradition in the Catholic Church going back to the Apostolic times to honor men and women who lived holy lives with a feast day,” Dunmyer said. “St. Patrick was believed to have lived such a holy life. Often the feast day chosen was the date of that person’s death, which was understood as the beginning of their eternal life. Scholars believe that St. Patrick died on March 17, 461. Thus, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated since that time on March 17.”
Dunmyer notes that early celebrations for St. Patrick were simple but have expanded over the years. Oftentimes, parades, festivals, church celebrations, or parties will be held on March 17, commemorating the holiday.
Dunmyer said the significance of the color green associated with the holiday is based on the legend that St. Patrick used a shamrock with its three leaves as an image to explain the Trinity to the Irish people.
“So, people would wear a shamrock on a lapel as a remembrance of St. Patrick,” Dunmyer said. “Gradually, the wearing of a shamrock expanded to the wearing of anything green. In more recent times, green has been associated with Irish nationalism and Ireland has become known as ‘The Emerald Isle.’”
One thing individuals might be surprised to find out about St. Patrick is that he was not actually born in Ireland.
“He was born in Roman Britain in the late fourth century,” Dunmyer said. “He was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped, but he returned to Ireland in 432 as a missionary to share the Christian faith with the Irish people.”
The holiday has likely gained interest from individuals throughout the years because Dunmyer said the Irish people are a very joyful group who invite all people to share their festivities.
Typically, Dunmyer’s church has a social on St. Patrick’s Day, but noted that due to Covid 19 there was not a celebration in 2020 and there will not be a celebration for 2021.
However, Dunmyer said St. Patrick’s Day is a day of joyful celebration for all Irish people, and all people who have a joyful heart.
Some ways to celebrate the holiday this year could include:
•Watching a St. Patrick’s Day parade virtually online. Parades are popular throughout the United States, Dublin, Ireland, and other parts of the world. Finding a parade to stream online can allow for families to participate in the festivities.
•Wear the color green on March 17.
•Make a St. Patrick’s Day themed food such as traditional beef stew or corned beef and cabbage.
•Search for four-leaf clovers. This can be a fun family event that takes everyone outside.
For families looking to enjoy the great outdoors during their spring break holiday, many trails and parks in Shelby County have things to offer for all ages.
Hiking enthusiast Jillian Echols said anyone can hike, and it makes a great family activity for all ages. “It is always good to start with something that is easy and short,” Echols said. “Especially if you have young children. One of the best things about hiking is that it is budget friendly. For short hikes, all you really need is adequate water, and maybe a snack.”
Spring Break 2021 will be March 22-26 this year, providing ample opportunity for those looking to get outside and enjoy the spring-like temperatures.
“The thing I enjoy most about hiking is being outside, and just really being aware of my surroundings,” Echols said. “You notice so much more when you are on foot. What flowers are in bloom? Which birds are out and about? I even like to hike in my neighborhood, because we tend to miss so much when we are just driving by every day.”
Echols recommends Shoal Creek Park in Montevallo as an easy hike for families to consider. “There are several miles of trails, but they are all easy and there is water to splash in, which makes it great for kids and pups,” Echols said.
A harder hike in the area is the one and a quarter mile hike up to King’s Chair at Oak Mountain State Park, according to Echols. “The distance is short, but it is a pretty good climb,” Echols said. “However, anyone can do it, and the reward is a great view when you reach the overlook.”
Echols also notes that Oak Mountain State Park has miles and miles of well-maintained trails and provides something for everyone.
For those looking for a hidden gem, Echols recommends Falling Rocks Falls in Montevallo.
“It is an easy hike to an impressive waterfall,” Echols said. However, Echols notes that the waterfall is high and those with younger children might want to take extra caution.
One tip for those looking to get out and explore is to bring water.
“It can get really hot here, even in the spring, and having enough water for yourself and every person and dog in your group is a must,” Echols said. “After that, it is best to have a map, because not all trailheads have one.”
Other hiking destinations throughout Shelby County and surrounding areas include:
· Cahaba River Park: The park is a joint venture between the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust and Shelby County, with the county taking the lead on development of outdoor amenities at the park, according to the park’s website. The 1,339-acre north sector features 17 miles of professionally designed and constructed trails for hiking, mountain biking, and trail-running enthusiasts. The park is located at the confluence of the Cahaba River and Shades Creek, with a total of 1,527 acres, which includes the North Sector’s 1,212 acres of Forever Wild Property and 127 acres of Shelby County on River Road (County Road 251, off County Road 13, west of Helena), and the South Sector’s 188 acres at the end of County Road 251 off County Road 10, west of Montevallo.
· Oak Mountain State Park: This 9,940-acre park is Alabama’s largest state park. Located in Pelham, it has the largest land area and one of the widest varieties of outdoor activities of any state park, according to its website.
· Buck Creek Trail: This Alabaster park offers an easy walking trail for families of all ages. The Trail is one mile, if you begin at the “Rules” sign on Buck Creek Track and walk the main trail to the Depot parking lot where the asphalt meets the grass.
· Shoal Creek Park: Located in Montevallo, the once 800-acre farm owned by the Perry family has now become a public historic and recreation site. Shoal Creek runs through the park, providing numerous scenic vistas and areas for enjoying the shoals. Volunteers have developed miles of hiking and biking trails with plans for further development, according to the park’s website.
· Falling Rock Falls: This Montevallo park is a 1.8-mile area that features a waterfall and is primarily used for hiking and walking.
· Red Mountain Park: Located a short distance from Shelby County, Red Mountain Park features 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. There are two miles of flat walking trails, ideal for easy use and outdoor strollers. The park can be accessed at 2011 Frankfurt Drive in Birmingham.