Who is St Patrick?

St Patrick was born south of Hadrian’s Wall in Britain during the 4th century even though the dates of his life can’t be fixed with certainty. When he was a teenager, St Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish raiders. After six years he finally escaped and came back to Britain where he became a priest. He later chose to return to Ireland in order to spread the teachings of Christianity to pagans. In spite of continuous opposition from pagan leaders, he continued to evangelise for nearly thirty years and baptised newly converted Christians, established monasteries, churches and schools. Some said he supposedly converted over 135,000 people and established 300 churches!  His date of death is dated on March 17th, 461 A.D. He was later canonised by the local church.

The celebration

The people of Ireland have celebrated Patrick every year since his death. Over 1200 years later, the celebration of Patrick has been carried far across the Atlantic Ocean. It is said that St Patrick’s Day was first publicly celebrated in Boston in 1737 where a large population of Irish immigrants resided. Two hundred years later, the first St Patrick’s Day parade was held in Dublin in 1931. Nowadays, the Irish government promotes tourism in Ireland on March 17th.

People all over the world celebrate St Patrick’s Day, including Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada along with many cities across the United States. Some cities have parades, everybody wears green and Irish families commemorate the day with traditional Irish food. While many Catholics still quietly celebrate by going to mass, the day has become a celebration of Irish heritage in all its glory.

St Patrick’s Day symbols

Green colour - On St Patrick’s Day, everyone wears green, but why? Ireland is often referred to as the « Emerald Isle » and is said to have 40 shades of green. Green has been Ireland’s national colour since the 19th century. Green is also one of the three broad stripes on the Irish flag and is said to represent the Gaelics and the Catholics. Furthermore, green is the colour of the Shamrock, St Patrick’s most famous symbol!

Irish flag, © daboost - Fotolia.com

The Shamrock – Irish folklore holds that Patrick used the small three-leaved plant to explain the Trinity to Irish people. Each leaf represented the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Shamrock, © moneymaker11 - Fotolia.com

Leprechauns – What do Leprechauns have to do with St Patrick’s? When arriving in Ireland, the Celts overtook the native Tuatha De Danaan tribe who were particularly gifted craftsmen who built great burial mounds and magnificent tombs. With time, the tribe evolved into « the fairies and leprechauns of later Irish legend, whose spirits haunt the tombs and mounds that they once built » (how the Irish Saved Civilisation). Leprechauns are also known as « luchorpan » meaning « wee ones » and are often depicted as shoemakers since the word « luchorpan » is similar to the Irish word meaning « one shoemaker ». Legend says that if you ever manage to capture a leprechaun and keep your eye on him, he won’t be able to vanish. As a ransom for his escape, he would reveal the location of his gold pot which is located at the end of the rainbow.

Leprechaun, © borsvelka - Fotolia.com

Corned beef and Cabbage – In the United States and Canada, it is a tradition on St Patrick’s Day to eat corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef is not considered an Irish national dish and the connection with St Patrick’s Day originates from Irish-American culture.

Corned Beef, © Brent Hofacker - Fotolia.com

Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone!