SAINT PATRICK’S DAY, or the Feast of Saint Patrick (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”), is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461 )
Saint Patrick is also probably the best known Saint around the world, after Saint Therese of Lisieux. Not only are many people named after him, with some 7 million bearing his name, but many establishments, institutions and churches are called after him. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York being the most famous of all.
St Patrick is credited with bringing christianity to Ireland. Most of what is known about him comes from his two works; the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish christians.
According to different versions about St Patrick and his life story it is said that he was born in Britain, around 385AD. His parents Calpurnius and Conchessa were Roman citizens living in either Scotland or Wales. As a boy of 14 he was captured and taken to Ireland where he spent six years in slavery herding sheep. He returned to Ireland in his 30s as a missionary among the Celtic pagans.
He is most known for driving the snakes from Ireland. It is true there are no snakes in Ireland, but there probably never have been – the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the Ice Age. As in many old pagan religions, serpent symbols were common and often worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of putting an end to that pagan practice.
Saint Patrick’s Day has come to be associated with everything Irish: anything green and gold, shamrocks and luck!
Shamrock, Seamóg or Seamair Óg, the Irish for a young clover can be found growing wild throughout Ireland. It is worn on the feast day of St. Patrick, 17th March, to represent a link with Saint Patrick, the Bishop who spread the Christian message in Ireland. The tradition of wearing Shamrock on Saint Patrick’s Day can be traced back to the early 1700’s.
DID YOU KNOW!
- Patrick was not Irish. He was from Wales.
- The humble shamrock was originally a teaching tool. St. Patrick is said to have used the three-leaved plant to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to the pagan Irish.
- The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York in the 1760s.
- For many years, blue was the color most often associated with St. Patrick. Green was considered unlucky. St. Patrick’s blue was considered symbolic of Ireland for many centuries and the Irish Presidential Standard is still blue.
- For many years, Dripsey in County Cork had the world’s shortest parade, just 77 feet, the distance between two pubs – The Weigh Inn and The Lee Valley.
- Traditionally, every year, the Irish leader hands a crystal bowl full of shamrock to the US President. The shamrock, grown in Kerry, is immediately destroyed by the Secret Service after the exchange.
- Guinness sales soar on St. Patrick’s Day. Recent figures show that 5.5 million pints of the black stuff are downed around the world every day. On St. Patrick’s Day that figure is doubled.