All around the world, people come together on the 17th day of March in honor of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Most revelers wear green, some cities have parades, and some families commemorate the holiday with an Irish meal. However, most are unaware of what the holiday stands for, and who exactly is St. Patrick?
To many folks’ surprise, St. Patrick was not actually Irish. He was a nobleman, born in 385 A.D. in Britain, but was kidnapped by Irish pirates at age 16. After 17 years of slavery, Patrick escaped Ireland and found his way home, but returned to Ireland as a missionary, in order to help spread the teachings of Christianity to pagans. While Patrick was born into a religious family, he spent most of his life as an Atheist, only to rediscover his faith during his enslavement in Ireland. He is said to have used a shamrock to explain the Christian concept of Trinity to the Irish. In spite of continuous opposition from pagan leaders, he continued to evangelize for thirty years while baptizing newly converted Christians and establishing churches, monasteries, and schools. March 17th is widely believed to be the day of his death.
St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious holiday in Ireland, but due to Irish Americans, slowly transformed into a celebratory affair. In the United States, St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated with banquets at elite clubs in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, South Carolina, and Georgia. New York City was the first to host a St. Patricks Day parade in 1762, and by the mid 19th century, parades were quite common.
Tradition has it that people wear shamrocks on their coats, and close the day by “drowning the shamrock” – placing it in a glass of whiskey before drinking. A common factor is also the wearing of the green, and the green colored alcohol. Green is symbolic of the Shamrock, and the green color of the landscape of Ireland.