What is St. Patrick's Day, anyway?

Green glitter garlands, leprechauns and shamrocks can only mean one thing. It is St. Patrick's Day. But the origins and true meaning of the holiday can be fuzzy, at best.

"Isn't it Irish?" asks Santa Monica College student Tamara Alessa. "I think it's about leprechauns, clovers, pot of gold, rainbows, and good luck."

While St. Patrick's Day was originally only an Irish holiday, it did not seem to be linked to mythical creatures, gold or good luck when it was first celebrated.

According to the History Channel's website, St. Patrick's Day was initially observed in honor of St. Patrick — born Maewyn Succat — who died on March 17, 461.

"The legend is that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland," said returning SMC student Megan Johnson.

But according to the History Channel's website, there had never been snakes in Ireland. The snakes in the legend were a symbol for St. Patrick's elimination of paganism and the emergence of Christianity.

However, St. Patrick was not Irish himself, but British. He was kidnapped and taken to Ireland at the age of 16 to work as a slave.

After six years of captivity, St. Patrick returned to Ireland to introduce and convert the Irish to Christianity. He worked as a Christian missionary for the rest of his life.

St. Patrick was not remembered as the patron saint of Ireland until centuries after his death when the mythologies and legends about him were spread.

It is believed that St. Patrick explained the holy trinity by means of the three-leaved shamrock, which became the emblem for Irish Christianity. Later, it translated into wearing the color green, which is today sometimes the only symbol associated with St. Patrick's Day, according to the History Channel's website.

"We just wore green," said Hannah Halpern, a first-semester student at SMC. "That was our St. Patrick's Day,"

Christians who were observing Lent, the period of time in which vices were not indulged, were given a pass in order to enjoy a few glasses of alcohol in celebration of the holiday.

Today, drinking on St. Patrick's Day is still a prominent custom.

"We just celebrate it as an excuse to get drunk," said Sam Ross-Smith, a second-year SMC student. After turning 21 this year, he will "probably end up in a bar drinking a green beer."

If you want to celebrate Irish Christianity, the Irish culture, or if you simply want to drink green beer, several restaurants and pubs in Santa Monica celebrate this holiday and host special events by playing traditional Irish music and offering Irish food and drinks throughout the day.

Irish pubs like O'Brien's Irish Pub and Restaurant on Main Street and Wilshire Boulvard open their doors early in the morning. At Sonny McLean's Pub, Guinness will be served in their beer garden starting at 10 a.m. Irish bands will also perform live at Finn McCool's Irish Pub.

Those over age 21 who want to celebrate in more than one pub can join the World Famous St. Patty's Day Pub Crawl on March 17, which begins at the 3110 Lounge in Santa Monica.