The first thing that has to be done is to sort the facts from the legends. St. Patrick was born some time between 387 and 416 A.D. in Wales. His birth name was Maewyn Succat. When he was a teenager, he was taken captive by Irish raiders and made a slave. He was bought by a man named Milius and became a shepherd in the mountains. It was while he was alone with the sheep that he began to feel a connection to God. His own accounts claim that he prayed upwards of one hundred times a day, even in the rain and snow. Then he says an angel spoke to him in a dream and told him to escape and find a ship. He did what the angel in the dream said, and found a ship. At first the captain denied him passage, but after praying to God for help, Succat was allowed on board. A storm left the ship stranded on a rocky shore, and the men wandered, lost. They were hungry, but Succat never lost hope. More prayers brought a herd of wild pigs and full bellies. Then the group was attacked by raiders, and Succat was again a prisoner. This time he was set free and made his way to a village where he learned he had walked all the way home.
Soon, Succat began to feel that God wanted him to move on. He couldn't stop thinking about it, so he left Wales and traveled to France. There he entered a monestary and became a monk. After much study, he became a priest, and got his new name, Patricius, which is Latin for Patrick. Patrick continued his work for the church, and in 432 he was named a bishop. Despite his success, he was not content. He couldn't get the other slaves he left behind in Ireland out of his mind, and all of the non-Christian people still there. Much of Ireland still followed the Druidic tradition.
Patrick died on
March 17, 461. Not long after, he was named a Saint, and his life began to be celebrated with feasts, dancing, and parties. St. Patrick’s Day became an official holiday in 1607, more than a thousand years after he died. As other Irish saints were forgotten, Patrick was more and more widely celebrated. His legend grew. By the late 1700s, the symbols we now associate with St. Patrick began to become common, including the shamrock.
Because of the wide gap between Patrick’s death, and the creation of an official holiday, many scholars believe the Patrick we know today was actually several Christian teachers pieced together into one man. We do have records of Succat, so we know who he was and that he existed. However, many of the stories and legends are impossible to prove or disprove. Miracles, such as the healing of a blind man when Patrick was only a baby, have endured, but no written records of those events from that time remain.
The practice of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day traveled across the
Atlantic Ocean with the Irish immigrants in the mid 1800s. The Great Famine was forcing many Irish to leave their homeland to avoid starvation. There was little to celebrate in , but those who made it to the Ireland were proud of their heritage. They were also angry at the British for what they felt was a lack of help, and so many celebrations were also forms of protest. Even in their new home, all was not well. Irish immigrants faced outright discrimination and a lack of work opportunities. Still, these proud people held St. Patrick’s Day parades in which Irish-American political candidates campaigned, in hopes that if they were elected there would be better treatment for Irish-Americans. Slowly, as success came their way, Irish-Americans became more accepted, and St. Patrick’s Day became a holiday for everyone. It has spread all over the world, and now, on March 17, we are all Irish for a day. United States
And what about the symbols we use on St. Patrick’s Day? Snakes and crosses are associated with a legend that says St. Patrick got rid of all the snakes in
. The legend is actually a symbol itself. It stands for the “pagans” that St. Patrick cleared away with Christianity. The Shamrock, or seamrog, is an ancient Celtic symbol of spring and a charm against witches. St. Patrick later used it in a lesson about the Trinity. Green is for the “Emerald Isle” of Ireland with its lush green grass. Leprechauns have long been a part of Irish fairy tales, but in 1959, Disney connected them to the holiday in Darby O’Gill and the Little People. The green-clad elves and their gold at the end of the rainbow became a symbol of the Irish spirit. Irish music, dancing, and food have become popular at celebrations around the world. People flock to parades, attend pub crawls, and buy soda bread and corned beef and cabbage. School children search for the leprechaun’s gold coins. Ireland
An Irish Blessing
May your heart be warm and happy
With the lilt of Irish laughter
Every day in every way
And forever and ever after.
Some Jokes Just For Fun
How can you tell an Irishman is having a good time? He’s
over with laughter. Dublin
What’s the best month for a parade? March
What is green and stays outside? Paddy O’Furniture
And Finally, Two Clean Limericks By Edward Lear
There was an Old Man of Kilkenny,
Who never had more than a penny;
He spent all that money,
In onions and honey,
That wayward Old Man of Kilkenny.
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”