(Editor’s note: DeeDee Wood is the owner of Black Cat Curiosities, an online antiques research and sales venue.)
St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th, honors the life of St. Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland. Once popular in Europe, the holiday gained popularity here in the United States as well, as immigration brought people and their customs to these shores in the 1800s and beyond.
Collecting St. Patrick’s Day memorabilia and antiques revolve around the celebration of the holiday itself, and include standard things like holiday post cards to send to loved ones, whiskey decanters, (part of a festive atmosphere for which the holiday is known), statues of St. Patrick himself, sold at religious and festivities venues in the 1900s, ceramics, drinking glasses and more.
There are many symbols of St. Patrick’s Day on antiques in this genre. The shamrock, contained on even high-end antiques, such as fine Belleek china, represents the very first plant that comes up in the spring in Ireland, a symbol of rebirth. As well, some say the shamrock was a symbol of the Holy Trinity, a nod to the Catholic Church in Ireland, the predominate religion in this country. The Celtic harp is another symbol you will see on items. It is an important part of Irish history and a nod to Celtic roots steeped deep in history from long ago in the Land of Ire, and can be found on coins, among other items.
Leprechauns also represent the “little people” or fairies of the Isles, and their mischievous antics and fabled tales make their way onto postcards, glasses, cups, doll clothes, plaques for the wall and other trinkets and decorative items. The pot of gold, said to be a symbol of the treasures of Ireland, especially for the leprechauns and their golden treasures, is also a symbol of finding treasure at the end of the rainbow. Again, this symbol can be found on greeting cards, antique post cards and other standard representations of this holiday.
The color green, a symbol of Ireland, “The Emerald Isle,” the hills and countryside of that region, is a color almost always included in St. Patrick’s Day items, such as the same items discussed before, in advertisements, old post cards, vintage clothing, religious items and ceramics.
For those collecting in the alcohol venue, there are plenty of options for St. Patrick’s Day vintage bar accompaniments. Bar signs, beer ads, glasses, decanters and more can be a classic addition to any Irish-themed bar or kitchen décor. St. Patrick’s Day is associated with drinking, whiskey, beer and revelry, and probably originated from the lifting of Lenten restrictions during a celebration in Ireland of the anniversary of his death, celebrating his life. Lenten restrictions removed rules about food and drink for that day to allow celebrations, thus the tradition of drinking and celebration on that day have continued to this day.
People have powerful connections and reactions to their roots and their history. Ireland is a background that many people find in their family tree, and there are collectibles, antiques, advertising and historic post cards, among other items, just waiting on the lover of the “The Emerald Isle” to explore them, and start a “lucky” collection of their own.