Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day? The History Goes Way Back

Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day? The History Goes Way Back

As we roll into March the air is a-buzz with expectation: spring is right around the corner and with it comes tulips, budding trees, longer days, and - of course - St. Patrick's Day. Despite growing up in fairly Irish family, I had limited knowledge of why we celebrated Saint Patty's, so this spring I've decided to do a little digging, and I'm here to share the fruits of my labor with all of you!

A Brief Overview:

Patrick was the son of a wealthy family, born in Kilpatrick, Scotland in 387 CE. When he was still quite young, it's believed that he was captured and made to be a slave by Irish raiders, until he was able to escape by ship after having a rather prophetic dream telling him that his ship "was ready.”

The dreams didn't stop there, according to legend... or history... whichever you want to call it, a little while later he had another dream, in which he heard the voices of the Irishmen he had left begging him to return. That was when he began the work that lead to him being celebrated for over 1000 years.

One of the most renowned religious figures, he is said to have converted over 100,000 people, established hundreds of churches, and consecrated even more bishops. Bringing religion to a rather pagan island, he was received well, establishing Christianity in Ireland using any tool at his disposal, including traditional Gaelic symbols, such as the shamrock, to help integrate ideas like the Trinity into the Irish culture.

Why March 17th?

This is an easy one to answer: Patrick died on March 17, 461 CE, and has been celebrated by Irishmen ever since.

Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in America?

When the Irish began flooding to America in the early to mid-1800s they brought many important pieces of their culture with them, not the least of which was this famous holiday, although the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in America predates the Revolutionary War.

Now observed everywhere from schools to city streets, St. Patrick's Day has become, like so many other things, part of what makes America the great melting pot; a day to celebrate one of the many countries that contributed to America's incredibly diverse heritage.

Related: 4 Fun Ways to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day

Two Fun Facts

  • Patrick was never officially canonized by the Catholic church, meaning he isn't actually a saint.
  • His real name was Maewyn Succat, it was first changed to "Patricius" - meaning "Father of the Citizens" when he became a priest. This later devolved into the name we know him as today: Patrick.

Well, that about sums it up. It all started with a young man who felt called to spread the gospel to a people who had once stripped him of everything he had, and over 1500 years later we still celebrate him and the country he went to save. Now that you know a little bit more about it, it's time to dig into some corned beef and cabbage! Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

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