A Few Facts About The St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day brings a promise of spring?

And that the modern celebration of St. Patrick’s Day really has almost nothing to do with the real man behind St. Patrick’s Day?

Here are some basic facts about the way it all began:

  • The real St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was born in Britain around A.D. 390 to an aristocratic Christian family that owned a townhouse, a country villa, and plenty of slaves. And originally Patrick professed no interest in Christianity.
  • At 16, Patrick was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in Ireland. This is when he became a Christian.
  • The folklore professes that a “voice” came to Patrick in his dreams and told him to escape. He stowed onto a pirate ship back to Britain and was reunited with his family. But the “voice” told him to go back to Ireland.
  • Patrick not only became a Christian, but was ordained as a priest and spent the rest of his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity.
  • These efforts by Patrick bring beating and harassment upon him in Ireland and he is admonished by British superiors.
  • He was pretty much forgotten upon his death in 461AD – on March 17.
  • Mythology around Patrick grew in his post-death centuries and he was honored as the patron saint of Ireland.
  • The use of the shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day likely originates in the possibility that Patrick used the shamrock’s three leaves to explain the Christian holy trinity.
  • The custom of wearing shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries – even though some call the three-leaf clover “bogus shamrocks” (The Irish Times) – and there is nothing about shamrocks that is uniquely Irish.
  • The Shamrock (annual that germinates each spring) is considered by some to mark spring’s beginning.
  • The myth that St. Patrick banished snakes from Ireland is pretty hard to believe – even though no snakes exist in Ireland today. That is because the climate is too cold and the waters too icy for snakes to survive.
  • The idea of snakes is relative to the concept of evil in literature so driving the snakes out of Ireland most likely refers to his efforts to drive the old, evil pagan ways out of Ireland.
  • These myths (snakes, shamrock, etc.) were most likely spread by well-meaning monks centuries after St. Patrick’s death. Read National Geographic’s St. Patrick’s Day Facts, Myths and Traditions.
  • What we see and celebrate as St. Patrick’s Day today was really invented in America by Irish-Americans. Read about 13 cities that do St. Patrick’s Day proud.

Photo Credit: © All rights reserved by Jim Frazier