Every year on March 17th we all put on our green clothing and spend the day pinching those who aren’t wearing their green. We pin three leaf clovers on our shirt, dress as leprechauns, and eat some delicious Irish foods that we don’t normally get. We’ve been taught from a young age that St. Patrick’s Day is a day of celebration of the Irish and of the color green. The story behind St. Patrick’s Day is so much more than that.
Who is St. Patrick?
St. Patrick was born in the 4th century somewhere around 380 A.D. He was born to Calpurnius, who was a Roman-British army officer, as Maewyn Succat. His Romanicized name was Patricius and he later became known as Patrick. He was being raised in Britain until he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He was imprisoned there for six years until he had a dream about God and planned his escape. Once he escaped on a getaway ship, he found himself back in Britain and then traveling to France. While in France, he met St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre, and joined a monastery to study under him for 12 years. By this time he was a bishop and felt the need to go back to Ireland to tell the people there about God. With the Pope’s blessing, that is exactly what he did.
He traveled throughout Ireland for 20 years converting the Irish people, who were mostly Pagans at the time, to Christianity. This upset the Celtic Druids and he was arrested many times, only to escape. During his time in Ireland he established monasteries, schools, and churches to help aid in converting the Irish people. After many years of serving God, St. Patrick died on March 17th, 461 A.D. The Catholic people honored him by having a feast every year on the day of his death. The celebration has now traveled all over the world and March 17th is known as St. Patrick’s Day.
Why all the green, clovers, leprechauns, and the Blarney stone?
St. Patrick’s Day has now become a day of celebration of the Irish culture. We wear green because Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle. Green is a significant color in the Irish flag and we pinch people who aren’t wearing it for fun, which is really awful when you think about it. The three leaf clover also shows much significance for the holiday for two reasons. St. Patrick used the three leaf clover to explain the holy trinity to the people of Ireland which includes the father, son, and the Holy Spirit. Three is also the lucky number of Ireland. All good things in the Irish culture come in threes, and the three leaf clover is no different.
Leprechauns really have no symbolic reference to the holiday other than being an Irish legend. The Irish people believed that leprechauns were tiny fairies, but not the good kind. They were known to be very unfriendly and live alone. They passed their time making shoes and could be found by the sound of their hammer. Treasure hunters would track down leprechauns in order to find their pot of gold. They would use physical violence to get the leprechauns to tell them where to find the treasure but there was one catch. If the treasure hunter took his eyes off the leprechaun for even a split second, the leprechaun would disappear with no hope of every locating the treasure.
The Blarney Stone is located in the Blarney Castle Tower in the Irish village of Blarney. The stone’s relevance comes from a legend that an old woman cast a spell on the specific stone because the King saved her life when she was drowning. When the King kissed the stone, he was blessed with the ability to talk sweetly. Many tourists now visit the tower to get their chance at the gift of persuasive eloquence. The stone is very hard to reach and requires much bending and reaching in order to kiss it.
Whether you’re Irish or not, the holiday is a fun time to celebrate with friends and eat some great food. Hopefully this helped clarify the history behind the day and how it has changed over time.