Whether you are celebrating your Irish heritage, welcoming Irish friends and family, or simply love all things about the Emerald Isle, nothing says “Irish” like Aran knitwear on St Patrick’s Day! Given the long history and deep cultural significance of Aran wool, it’s the perfect accompaniment to your celebrations. At Aran Sweater Market, we are bearers of the Aran tradition and are always keen to help spread the Aran story around the world. So here is a little background on Aran knitting and how it connects to our wider Irish heritage, plus some tips on how to celebrate your St Patrick’s Day with Aran!

What is St Patrick’s Day?

St Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17th March – the traditional death date of St Patrick (c.385 – c.461), the patron saint of Ireland. The day commemorates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and is also a general celebration of Irish heritage and culture. Traditionally celebrations involve parades, festivals, and céilidh dancing. Christians celebrate by attending church services, while historically the Lenten restrictions on eating certain items and drinking alcohol were temporarily lifted – which has given the festivities a reputation for being an excellent partying opportunity!

The story of St Patrick

St Patrick was a 5th century Romano-British Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, Patrick came from a wealthy family, with a father who was a deacon and a grandfather who was a priest in the Christian church. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. He spent six years working as a shepherd, and during this time he found God. He believed that God told him to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. Thus he made his escape, but resolved to return to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity.

He did go back to Ireland, spreading his message of Christianity throughout much of the country. His adventures became legend, with one of the best known being that he drove the snakes out of Ireland (despite the fact that snakes were not a native species).

According to tradition, Patrick died on 17th March and was buried at Downpatrick. His legend grew and grew, and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.

How to celebrate St Patrick’s Day

Whether you are religious or not, St Patrick’s Day holds something for everyone who loves Ireland. Use it as an excuse to celebrate your favourite aspects of Irish culture, from indulging in a Guinness or three, to listening to some beautiful traditional fiddle music. Gather together with friends to play music, retell Irish myths and legends, and enjoy toasting each other’s health. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you enjoy it – and remember to dress the part!

Aran and St Patrick’s Day

What could be better, for a celebration of Irish culture, than to wear Aran? Aran knitwear is deeply rooted in Irish history, a living tradition connecting modern craftsmen back through hundreds of years of skill and creation.

The Aran sweater has become a symbol of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. The style of knitting originated there many hundreds of years ago. A place of wild and rugged beauty, the Islands are rich in antiquities and prehistoric Celtic remains. Although the exact origins of the Aran style are lost to history, the design influence of the Celts can be keenly felt throughout Aran work. The Celts arrived on the Aran Islands around 2000BC, and their legacy has left a rich mark on the landscape and traditions of the people of the Islands.

It is believed that by the first century AD, the very first Aran garments were being produced. They would have looked a lot more rustic than today’s sophisticated items, having been made using heavy wool and primitive needles.

As Christianity spread throughout Ireland, manuscripts such as the legendary Book of Kells made reference to elaborately designed garments similar to the Aran sweater. Celtic artwork is echoed in many of the Aran stitches, such as the Holy Trinity Stitch, which is drawn directly from Celtic art.

In this way, Aran knitting is intimately linked both with the birth of Christianity in Ireland, and with St Patrick himself.

Outfit inspiration for St Patrick’s Day

Perhaps the ultimate way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and your connections to Ireland is to wear your Clan Aran.

Each family on the Aran Islands would have had their own knitting patterns. These would be closely guarded family secrets, handed down between clan members for generations. The stitches would all be imbued with meaning, created especially to commemorate a piece of the land or to wish someone a special protection.

Today, Aran Sweater Market has assembled a large collection of Clan Aran knitting patterns. Their Clan Aran range includes a hand-knitted  irish sweater, made by master craftspeople using the traditional báinín wool. A jumper knit in your clan’s unique pattern must surely be the ultimate outfit to wear on St Patrick’s Day.

The Clan Aran range also includes a clan scarf and clan poncho, perfect as gifts for your fellow clan members, especially if you are unsure of specific sizing. Welcome new family members with their very own clan baby blanket – a very special family heirloom in the making. Celebrate your Irish heritage throughout your home with clan throws, clan bed runners, and by hanging up your very own clan history display. If you’re feeling crafty, or know someone who is skilled at knitting, a clan knitting kit can make a wonderful personalised gift.

Clan Aran mementos are perhaps the ultimate way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Aran Sweater Market has painstakingly researched knitting styles and stitches that are associated with clan names from all over Ireland. Inspired by the Irish landscape and Irish surnames, these symbolic mementos make great family gifts that will be cherished for generations to come.

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