A Brief History of St. Patrick’s Day Stuff

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Saint Patrick’s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick (IrishLá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”) is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated annually on 17 March.  St. Patrick is the most commonly-recognized patron saint of Ireland.  He lived (approximately) from. AD 385–461.

Much of what is known about St Patrick comes from the Declaration, which was allegedly written by Patrick himself. He was born in Roman Britain (though occasionally reportedly in Scotland) near the end of the fourth century to a wealthy Roman-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the early Christian church. According to the Declaration, at the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. He spent six years there working as a shepherd and during this time he “found God”. The Declaration says that God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. After returning home Patrick went on to become a priest.

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According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent 30 years preaching in the northern Ireland and converted thousands to Christianity while establishing monasteries, churches, and schools.  Tradition holds that he died on March 17 and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.

Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church. The day officially commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.  It has evolved to also celebrate the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.







St.  Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older.

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Love me some shamrocks…


In America, St. Patrick’s Day was first publicly celebrated in Boston in 1737 where a large population of Irish immigrants resided. Nearly 200 years later, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Irish Free State was held in Dublin in 1931. During the mid 1990’s, the Irish government also began a campaign to promote tourism in Ireland on March 17th.  While many Catholics still quietly celebrate this day of religious observance by going to mass, St. Patrick’s Day slowly evolved to become a celebration of Irish heritage.

Fun Facts

Lenten restrictions on drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption.

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Because nothing says I’m Irish like drinking green beer even though I gave it up for Lent…



There are more Irish people living in the U.S. than in Ireland.  The population of Ireland is roughly 4.2 million, but there are an estimated 34 million Americans with Irish ancestry.

 The official color of St. Patrick is actually blue.  Several artworks of St. Patrick show him wearing blue vestments. Blue was also commonly used on flags and coats-of-arms to represent Ireland.  Green came into the picture much later, probably as a symbol of the greenness of the “Emerald Isle.”

Leprechauns were first mentioned in the 8th century.  Belief in leprechauns, a term that comes from the Irish word meaning “small-bodied fellow,” probably originated in the Celtic belief in fairies.  Celtic folktales tell stories of tiny men and women with magical powers who were known for their trickery.

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He looks like a Leprechaun to me…



 St. Patrick didn’t rid Ireland of snakes.  One legend often associated with St. Patrick is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland during one of his sermons, driving the serpents into the sea.  But snakes are not actually found in post-glacial Ireland because of the country’s geographical position.

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Oops.  Maybe this is the Leprechaun…



The real St. Patrick wasn’t Irish (gasp!)  Contrary to everything your intuition has taught you, St. Patrick was actually English. He was born in Britain around 385 A.D.

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This is NOT a Leprechaun…



How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Leave a comment, follow my blog, friend me on Facebook…

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