Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

The story of Saint Patrick goes back quite a ways, all the way back to the 5th century.  Due to his life existing in a time period so far back, exact dates and details can be a little blurred with legend, but we do know a number of very important and specific details through existing documents, such as his journals and letters. Patrick was born and lived in what is believed to be England. His father, who was a Christian deacon, raised Patrick until he was 16, at which time Irish raiders kidnapped Patrick and sold him to slavery in Ireland. Patrick spent the next several years working as a shepherd in terrible conditions, fighting against the cold and with little food. During this time, he grew closer and closer to his childhood beliefs, and further rooted his foundation in his faith. After 6 years as a slave, he finally escaped, and eventually returned back to England.

Patrick then studied the Bible and Christianity, became a priest, and eventually was consecrated as a bishop in Auxerre, France. As he practiced, he felt a pull to return to Ireland and to help bring the people there to Christianity. He wrote that one night he had a dream where all of the children and mothers of Ireland were reaching their hands out to him. He interpreted this vision as a call for his return to Ireland, and left shortly after to proclaim the good news to the Irish in the north and west. Patrick taught in places where faith had never been introduced, and won the protection of local kings. He spent his time establishing churches and monasteries, holding councils, and converting the masses. In a relatively short time, the majority of Ireland experienced a great transition to becoming a Christian region.

Due to Patrick's successful mission to convert the masses in Ireland to Christianity, he has been named the primary patron saint of Ireland, and Saint Patrick's Day is now observed on March 17th each year, the supposed date of his death. Minor celebrations of remembrance and solemnness were held on this date in Ireland to preserve the affects they felt from St. Patrick's influence in their nation. When many Irish emigrated to the United States, St. Patrick Day was established, and became a holiday of dancing, feasting, and celebrating Irish heritage.

Interesting Facts and Legends:

The First Parade - The first St. Patrick Day parade was held during the Revolutionary War by Irish soldiers in the 18th century. The parades expanded as a way for Irish immigrants to connect with their heritage after moving to the U.S.

Dying the River Green - Chicago city officials made the decision to dye a portion of the river green starting in 1962 as a part of the celebrations.

2 Patricks Theory - It is now believed that much of the work attributed to St. Patrick was completed by two separate people in Ireland called Patrick, and who worked towards bringing the Irish nation to Christianity. There are journals and records indicating different time periods that do not align with any one person, so it is likely that this is the case.

Patrick Teaching the Trinity with 3 Leaf Clovers - In the 17th cemetery, a theory was developed that St. Patrick taught and explained the Christian trinity to the Irish using the 3 leaf clover as an example. The 3 leaf clover then became the symbol for St. Patrick's and Ireland. It has since been discovered that there were a number of other religions dating back prior to Christianity where the 3 leaf clover was used as an example of trinity divinities in Ireland. St. Patrick would not have needed to explain the trinity to this region during his time there.

Patrick Banishes the Snakes from  Ireland - Probably the most widely believed legend has proven to be both true and false. Snakes existed in Ireland thousands of years ago, and then died off due to an ice age that occurred about 10,000 years ago. However, many of the pagan religions held females as the leaders in their religions and had goddesses as their creators and saviors. With the snake being the symbolic emblem of women through Christianity, St. Patrick did help to expel those religions, therefore, "banishing the snakes from Ireland."

As you head out to your local Irish pub to drink a Guinness and eat some corned beef and cabbage, you can celebrate St. Patrick's Day for what is has now become: A U.S. tradition celebrating Irish heritage. Whether St. Patrick dispelled the snakes from Ireland or not, he clearly had an influence on Ireland and the culture that has been cultivated today, and has given us this wonderful holiday. Now that I have the knowledge, I'm ready to listen to some Irish music, try my local breweries latest Irish stout, and cheers to everything green!

Sláinte! (Cheers in Irish Gaelic)