St. Patrick’s Day

Picture of a Shamrock

About St. Patrick

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Roman controlled Britain around 390. He died on March 17, 460. March 17th is when Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated.

St. Patrick was abducted by Irish raiders when he was 16 and was taken to Ireland, which was pagan at that time. There he was sold into slavery and forced to work as a shepherd for 6 years. It was during this time that he became devoutly religious. He also learned to speak the Celtic language and he learned about Druidism, a pagan religion practiced in Ireland.

After 6 years, he is said to have had a vision in which God told him to leave Ireland. He escaped to Britain. That was when he is said to have had a second vision in which God told him to return to Ireland one day as a missionary. After that he began training as a priest in France, where he was ordained. Eventually he was sent back to Ireland to convert the pagans to Christianity.

Legends about St. Patrick

St. Patrick decided to try to convert the Irish by using their preexisting symbols and traditions. One legend is that he created the Celtic cross. The sun and moon were important symbols in Ireland. They were shown by drawing a circle. With this idea in mind, the legend says that St. Patrick superimposed a circle onto the cross to make the cross more familiar and important to the Irish people.

Another popular legend about St. Patrick is that he banished all the snakes from Ireland. It’s thought that the snakes were really a symbol for the pagans and that he rid Ireland of all the pagans by turning them into Christians.

He is also said to have used the shamrock in his teachings. He related its three leafs coming out of one stem to the three part trinity (the father, son and the holy spirit) being the one god of Christianity. That’s why the shamrock is one of the symbols of St. Patrick’s Day.

Picture of a Three Leaf Clover

Traditions of St. Patrick’s Day in the US and Ireland

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually held in the US in the 1700’s by Irish soldiers. The tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade continues to this day.

Irish Americans also established the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day and decorating with the symbol of the shamrock or three leaf clover. In Ireland they wear a sprig of a real shamrock on their clothes. Girls in Ireland will wear a green ribbon in their hair. But they’re careful not to wear any other green! In Ireland people believed that the fairies loved green and if they saw anyone wearing that color, they would steal them away.

In the US, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal is corned beef and cabbage, sometimes potatoes, Irish soda bread and Irish beer (which is sometimes dyed green!).

In Ireland they might eat a popular dish called colcannon, which is made with mashed potatoes, onions and kale. (This is also a traditional meal for Halloween.) They might also eat Irish bacon (which is like ham), potatoes and possibly cabbage. They might also eat Irish soda bread. The children eat lots of sweets.

In Ireland, they’ll greet each other saying in Gaelic, Beannacht na feile Padraig oraibh, in English, May the Blessings of St. Patrick be with you. In the US, you’ll often see sayings about the “Luck of the Irish”.

In both the US and Ireland, people were traditionally given a reprieve from the Lenten fast and were able to eat meat in celebration of this special day.

St. Patrick’s Day has only recently become a bigger celebration in Ireland. It used to be only a religious celebration and pubs weren’t even allowed to open on this day. The law was changed in 1995 when the Irish government decided that St. Patrick’s Day was a good opportunity to promote Irish culture. They established the St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin, that takes place over several days. About one and a half million people attend it.

Picture of a Shamrock

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May the luck of the Irish be with you!


Come visit the Mama Lisa’s World Ireland Page for some Irish Songs to sing for St. Patrick’s Day!

This article was posted on Sunday, March 12th, 2006 at 7:02 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Gaelic, Holidays Around the World, Ireland, Languages, St. Patrick's Day, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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