Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, although he was not Irish. He is celebrated on March 17th , known as Saint Patrick's Day, which has become a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and heritage.
The life of Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was born in Britain in the late 4th century. The son of Calpurnius, a Deacon who owned land on the coast of Wales. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland where he was held captive as a slave for six years. During this time, he developed a deep spiritual connection with Christianity. He had never been especially devout, but during his time in captivity he is said to have heard a voice telling him he would return home. He actually managed to escape and find passage back to Britain. After his return he then travelled to France where he studied at a monastery and was ordained a bishop.
Patrick would experience another vision, in which he saw the land of his captivity and it was this that set him on his path to return to Ireland with the mission of spreading Christianity to the Irish people.
Something that aided Patrick in his task was the fact that he understood the Irish people and their culture. More than that, they understood him as he could speak their language. He is credited with using the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish people, and is also credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, although this is likely a myth.
He wasn't received with open arms by everyone, in fact in England, there were critics in the church hierarchy who accused him of corruption. This resulted in him writing about his life and his deeds. The work, called The Confessio is available to read online here.
Saint Patrick is believed to have died on March 17th, 461 AD in Downpatrick. This day has been celebrated as a religious feast day in Ireland ever since. However, it wasn't until the 17th century that the holiday began to be celebrated outside of Ireland. Irish immigrants in America began to celebrate the day as a way to connect with their Irish heritage and culture.
Today, Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated around the world, with parades, festivals, and events. In Ireland, it is still a religious holiday and is typically celebrated with church services and family gatherings. However, in other countries, it has become a secular holiday and is often associated with drinking, partying, and wearing green.
One of the most famous customs associated with Saint Patrick's Day is the drinking of green beer. However, this tradition is a relatively recent development and was likely started in America. Other customs associated with the holiday include wearing green, decorating with shamrocks and other Irish symbols, and eating traditional Irish foods such as corned beef and cabbage.
The best St. Paddy's Day festivals around the world
In keeping with the American roots of this modern era festival, In Chicago, Illinois, USA, they host probably the most famous St. Paddy's Day celebrations in the world. Each year they dye the Chicago River a shade of green in a tradition that extends back over sixty years. There is also a parade through the city. There are large Paddy's Day events and parades in most major US cities including Boston, New York and San Francisco to name just a few.
Dublin, the capital of Ireland is obviously a popular destination for party goers on this day. The city hosts a four day festival with parade, big name pop acts and obviously festivals that celebrate culture, beer and whiskey.
A surprising Saint Patrick's day celebration can be found on the island of Montserrat. The small Caribbean island is the only other nation that has a national public holiday outside of Ireland on the 17th March. The British territory was settled by Irish who were seeking escape from Cromwell's invasion of Ireland. Many of the Irish who arrived, did so as indentured servants while others were wealthy plantation owners. The March 17th events on Monserrat are a celebration of a slave uprising. The African slaves chose Saint Patrick's Day as many of the plantation owners would be drunk, but their plans were overheard and the owners were ready for them. The authorities executed the nine ringleaders. Since 1985 the day has been a public holiday, the culmination of a ten day festival to commemorate the uprising. These festivities sit alongside more Shamrock styled tourism as the island took advantage of the Irish connection after a volcanic eruption buried the capital on Plymouth early in the 2000s. The island used a global branding of the "Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" to encourage tourism to rebuild.
Toronto in Canada has been celebrating St. Patrick's Day for over a century and a half and claims to be the biggest and best in North America. The parade attracts over 500,000 spectators as the city celebrates the Irish heritage of a large number of the immigrants that built the city.
Whether you celebrate by attending a parade, eating traditional Irish foods, or simply wearing green, Saint Patrick's Day is a time to come together and celebrate the rich history and traditions of Ireland.