The History Behind St. Patrick’s Day

The+History+Behind+St.+Patricks+Day

Cassidy Fisher, Reporter

St. Patrick’s death on March 17 became a Roman Catholic feast day for the patron saint of Ireland. However, St. Patrick was not Irish and he was probably born Scottish of Roman-English, most likely by the name Maewyn Succat. He was later called “Patrick” when his Romanticized name, Patricius, was
shortened.

When he was younger, Patrick was kidnapped, along with many others, by a band of pirates. He was sold into slavery in Ireland for a total of six years and spent most of the time imprisoned. He then began having dreams of seeing God, who told him to escape by means of a getaway ship. After escaping on the ship, he went to Britain and then to France, where he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain.

He spent about 12 years training and studying until he became a bishop. Shortly afterwards, he had a dream telling him that he needed to go tell Ireland about God, so he sailed for Ireland with the blessings of the Pope and converted many Pagan Gaelic Irish people to Christianity. He was successful at winning converts, even among the royal families, and because his converting upset many Celtic Druids, he was arrested several times. He traveled Ireland for 20 years establishing monasteries, schools, and churches.

By the end of the 7th century, Patrick became a legendary figure. One of the legends associated with him involves the three-leafed shamroc, which is what he allegedly used to describe the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). According to another legend, St. Patrick once put the curse of God on venomous snakes in Ireland and drove all of the snakes to the sea where they drowned.

Today March 17, the day of his death, is celebrated more as a secular holiday than a Catholic holy day. Most see March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, as an “Irish Day” and it has been adopted by the Irish as part of their national tradition. The Catholic feast day has become a celebration of Ireland and the Irish culture. The leprechaun, the Celtic fairy, and the shamrock, an ancient symbol for the Trinity, have become the chief symbols of the holiday. The three-leafed shamrock is also considered an important symbol to the holiday because the number three is Ireland’s magic number. Numbers play an important role in Celtic symbolism. Three can symbolize wholeness: past, present, and future or sky, earth, and underworld. In Ireland, good things come in threes. Even the rhythm of traditional Irish storytelling is in threefold repetition.

So on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, celebrate with the number three and don’t let those leprechauns catch you not wearing green!