Kiss me I’m Irish! You’ve seen the shirts, hats, and pins worn on St. Patrick’s Day. This year St. Patrick’s Day is Friday, March 17. So, pucker up and get ready to wear green, watch out for those pesky leprechauns, and look for gold at the end of the rainbow. These traditions we know well, but do you know about the holiday and how it became a holiday in the first place? You might be very surprised to find out more about Saint Patrick.
To start, St. Patrick, born in the fifth century, was not even Irish. That’s right! Saint Patrick was born in Britain. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and held hostage by Irish raiders. He spent six years held in captivity, enslaved as an Irish herder. During this time, he sought comfort and converted to Christianity. After escaping captivity, he returned to Ireland and reunited with his family.
Seeking to become a bishop, St. Patrick studied for priesthood and became ordained. His writings in his book “Confessio” spoke of his hearing voices. He believed these voices were pleading with him to return to Ireland to lead the people there to Christianity. In the year 433, Patrick returned to Ireland and began teaching and converting thousands, spending the rest of his life there as a Christian missionary. Before his death on March 17, 461 St. Patrick was given credit for converting Ireland to Christianity.
Many myths and falsehoods have surrounded St. Patrick. It is said that he stomped all of the snakes out of Ireland. In actuality, the water temperatures surrounding Ireland are too cold for snakes to migrate and, therefore, they do not exist in the country.
The shamrock, or three-leaf clover, got its connection to St. Patrick because he often used the flower to explain the Holy Trinity. In the eighteenth century, the shamrock was worn on lapels to symbolize Irish Catholic nationalism, and was prominently displayed during the United Irish Uprising in 1798. The original color for St. Patrick’s Day was blue, but later green became the color as it resembled the Irish landscape.
For thousands of years, the day of St. Patrick’s death has been a national holiday in which observances include church attendance in the morning followed by a celebration of eating and drinking in the afternoon. This observance soon caught hold in other areas of the world and is now the reason for celebration worldwide.
The first official celebration of St. Patrick’s Day did not actually take place in Ireland, but in New York City instead. In 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the British military walked the streets, making a historic mark and instituting the first St. Patrick’s Day parade. Since then, St. Patrick’s Day has become a day of international celebration recognizing Irish heritage.