Coming up Holiday: St. Patrick’s Day and It’s History

Alexis Adler, Author

Hello everyone. We already know that Valentine’s Day just happened not too long ago and the next holiday is St. Patrick’s Day. The little leprechaun is coming back! But, is that where St. Patrick’s Day came from? I don’t think so. Then, where did this holiday come from?

St. Patrick’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This “Feast Day” always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD. Wait; But who is Patrick? St. Patrick, considered the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Banna Venta Berniae, a town in Roman Britain, sometime in the late 300s AD. That’s right, Patrick wasn’t Irish. And his name wasn’t Patrick either; it was Maewyn Succat, but he didn’t care for that so he chose to be known as Patricius down the line. He had many monikers (or names) throughout his life: he was known by many as Magonus, by others as Succetus, and to some as Cothirthiacus. But we’ll just call him Patrick since everybody else does.

His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon in the early Christian church, but Patrick wasn’t much of a believer himself. It wasn’t until he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and enslaved for six years as a shepherd that he chose to convert to Christianity. It’s a good thing no one would capture us and enslave us…right? While in northeastern Ireland, Patrick learned the Irish language and culture before attempting to escape back to Britain. But Patrick wasn’t very good at escaping apparently, because he was captured again. This time by the French. He was held in France where he learned all about monasticism before he was released and sent home to Britain where he continued to study Christianity well into his twenties. Like I said, luckily people don’t just capture and enslave other people.

When Patrick arrived back in Ireland, however, he and his preaching ways were not welcomed, so he had to leave and land on some small islands off the coast.Patrick baptized thousands of people (some people would say 100,000), ordained new priests, guided women to nunhood, converted the sons of kings in the region, and aided in the formation of over 300 churches.

Folklore also tells of Patrick banishing all the snakes from Ireland, but as cool as that may sound, there were never actually any snakes on the island to begin with. Lame, I know. But Patrick may be the one responsible for popularizing the shamrock, or that three-leafed plant you’ll see plastered all over the place today. According to folklore, Patrick used it to teach the Irish the concept of the Christian Holy Trinity (In the name of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). They already had triple deities and regarded the number three highly, so Patrick’s use of the shamrock may have helped him win a great deal of favor with the Irish.

These days, Patricius is known to most as Saint Patrick. Though he’s not technically an actual saint by the Catholic Church, but he’s well known throughout the Christian world. In the early 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the tradition over to the American colonies, and it was there that Saint Patrick started to become the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As more Irish came across the Atlantic, the Feast Day celebration slowly grew in popularity. So much, in fact, the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737 (George Washington became president in 1789).

Today, people of all backgrounds celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore and Russia!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!