St. Patrick: The Man and the Holiday

St. Patrick: The Man and the Holiday
St. Patrick: The Man and the Holiday
St. Patrick’s day is the holiday designed to honor the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. So, to understand the history of St. Patrick’s Day, you have to understand who the man is, and why he is the patron saint of the country.

All of the facts about this man are unclear as stories have been told for centuries about him and his contributions to Ireland, and as everyone knows, stories often get embellished, changed, and what not over time. However, the over all consensus with historians when it comes to the life of St. Patrick is as follows:

St. Patrick started out as a child in Britain somewhere between 432 and 461 AD. When he was sixteen he was kidnapped from the Roman British Isles and taken to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. He worked as a slave for six years as a shepherd. During this time he turned to religion as his source of comfort and solace. He eventually escaped and returned home to Britain. At home, he remembered how religion had comforted him during his years of slavery and thus became a priest. 

One night he had a dream where the voices of the Irish people were calling him and asking him to convert them to Christianity. His mission was clear. He spent several years studying and preparing to return to the land he was held captive and be able to serve as a Christian missionary. 

There were some, but few Christians in Ireland at the time, and St. Patrick was able to help bring about a major change in the country, by converting many to Christianity. He did this by focusing on converting those in power, such as the nobles, and letting them lead so that others would follow.

Of course this made others angry with him, particularly the druids and they often argued with him and sought to kill him. As a result he had to hide, and in doing so laid the groundwork for many monasteries and churches. As these began to pop up around Ireland, Christianity was promoted further.

Up until this point, much of the history of Ireland was passed down orally, and through stories. St. Patrick helped to make the country more literate and preserve its history in writing by prompting people to study religious texts and become proficient in reading and writing. He spent over 30 years as a missionary in Ireland, and it is said he died March 17th. Thus, the date we now celebrate St. Patrick.

Originally this was a strictly Irish holiday, but as people emigrated to America they brought their traditions with them. St. Patrick’s Day was officially celebrated in America for the first time in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. It has now grown to a country wide celebration with over 100 cities in the US holding annual St. Patrick’s Day parades, many pubs selling green beer and Irish whiskey that day, and several other fun traditions.