If you were to look at how people celebrate St. Patrick’s day nowadays, you would be excused for thinking that the man being celebrated was a gent that dressed like a leprechaun and who is drinking green beer to extreme excess. But, this is a bit disconnected from the history of the St. Patrick’s Day.
So, before you put on your best green hat and head off to the pub to bathe in Guinness, you might consider reading on to hear a little bit of the history of the man that we love to honor every March 17th.
There is not a lot known about the early life of St. Patrick who would become the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he was born in 385 AD, at a time when the Roman’s had a pretty tight grip on Britain. He was born into a wealthy family, and both his father and grandfather were respected members of the Christian Church.
Patrick’s life took a real turn for the worse when he was kidnapped and shipped over to the County Mayo near Killala by Irish marauders. The 16-year old was forced into slavery, where he would likely have spent the rest of his days if not for a vision from God, in his dreams, prompting him to flee his captors.
Patrick was able to hop on a boat bound for Britain, but he didn’t settle there long before heading to Gaul, where he joined the Church of Auxerre. It was during his time there that he studied to become a priest, before another “calling” saw him return to Ireland in 432 AD. Patrick had become a bishop by this time, and he made it his goal to “Christianise” the people of Ireland, which he attempted to do for three decades before his passing on March 17, 461 AD.
Many more Christian missions arrived on Irish shores in the years following his death, but it was the work that Patrick put in that remained held in the highest esteem. In particular, legend tells of how Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish people, which is why that is one of the symbols that has become synonymous with St. Patrick ’s Day over the years. March 17th became an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century, but the celebrations are now seen in many different places all over the world.
In particular, many non-Irish residents in North America have taken it upon themselves to become Irish for a day every time the St. Patrick’s celebrations roll around. This may very well be due to the fact that the Irish people have left their beautiful little island to settle in other parts of the world over the years.
In the U. S., St. Patrick’s Day is both a religious and cultural holiday and not a federal holiday. It is however, celebrated as a legal holiday in Chatham County, Georgia and Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
In the U. S. states, the day is celebrated by wearing green (those who forget to wear green are sometimes pinched), eating Irish foods like corn beef and cabbage, drinking green beer or other frothy beverages, watching and participating in parades.
The city of Chicago dyes its river green. New York City has the largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the world with over 150,000 marchers. Boston has had the longest standard St. Patty’s Day parade starting in 1737. And, in 1991, Congress declared March as Irish-American Heritage Month.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is an official public holiday.
Rumor Has It …
… that St. Patrick charmed the Irish islanders by telling serial cereal fables about how the tiny bowl of sugary Blarney stones he was munching was “magically delicious!”
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