The Origins of St. Patrick’s Day

Each year as March 17th rolls around, friends and family gather together to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Typically the words “St. Patrick’s Day” permeate our mind with images of clovers, parties, the Irish and Leprechauns. While most are familiar with the culture associated with St. Patrick’s Day, few are aware of the true history and origins that make this day so notable.


Who was St. Patrick?

With the birthname of Maewyn Succat, Saint Patrick had quite the unique life. He was born in Britain, so he wasn’t even of Irish descent. At age sixteen he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland. For six years Saint Patrick was forced into labor, far away from his loved ones. He used this time alone to practice and grow in his Christian faith. Saint Patrick finally made his great escape back to Britain after dreaming of God’s voice telling him to leave Ireland. During his time in Britain, he became a minister and eventually returned to Ireland with the intention of spreading Christianity. Despite not gaining many followers at first, Saint Patrick had multiple visions-that he believed were from God himself-and persisted to spread his faith. Eventually he gained a mass amount of followers and was credited with introducing Christianity to the Irish. Saint Patrick allegedly died on the 17th of March.


Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick’s Day first started as a religious celebration. Roman Catholics created it to honor the late Saint Patrick and his contributions to spreading the Word of God. It’s celebrated March 17th, on the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death. Roman Catholics felt it was necessary to create this sacred holiday since Saint Patrick dedicated his life to spreading the gospel. However, St. Patrick’s Day became greatly popular and is now associated largely with Irish culture. Irish families will oftentimes feast and attend religious services. Others will party and express their beloved Irish cultures through parades.


Significant Symbols

The Shamrock – While in Ireland spreading Christianity, Saint Patrick incorporated Irish culture into many of his teachings. One of his most famous teachings involved using the shamrock to represent the Holy Trinity. Since the shamrock consists of three leaves, he used each of them to represent a piece of the Holy Trinity-The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. As for four leaf clovers, Irish tradition states that each leaf represents hope, faith, love, and luck.

Green Color – Green is a staple of Irish culture. It is one of the three colors displayed on Ireland’s flag, symbolizing Irish nationalism. Green was also worn by the Irish from head to toe during the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641, as well as The French Revolution. Even the vast lands of Ireland are grassy green as far as the eye can see. However, people made wearing green a staple of St. Patrick’s Day due to the myth that it makes you invisible to Leprechauns. Supposedly, Leprechauns would pinch those who weren’t wearing green as those were the only people visible to them.

Leprechauns and The Pot of Gold – Leprechauns have been a myth in Irish folklore for thousands of years. These creatures are known for their cranky temperament and sly tricks. They’re most associated with the “pot of gold” that they supposedly keep at the end of a rainbow. The Leprechauns get the gold coins from fairies which they keep hidden in their pot. Supposedly the end of a rainbow can never be found, therefore their pot of gold can never be found either. So if you’re looking to strike it rich with a pot of gold this St. Patrick’s Day, you’re out of luck.


The true significance of St. Patrick’s Day is oftentimes overlooked but is quite intriguing to learn. This holiday is sacred to some and a way of celebrating culture to others. Its deep rooted history signifies why this is such a positive holiday worth learning about. So this St. Patrick’s Day, consider not only wearing green, but educating yourself with the expressive Irish culture.


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