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St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday celebrated all around the globe to honor the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Read on to learn more about the origin of the holiday and about the man who inspired it.
When Is St. Patrick’s Day?
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17th.
Note for 2008: For 2008, the Catholic Church has officially moved St. Patrick’s Day to Saturday, March 15th to avoid a conflict with the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. Most secular establishments in the US and Canada, such as restaurants and bars, will continue to celebrate the holiday on March 17th, and the 17th will remain a national day off from work in Ireland.
Who Was Saint Patrick?
Even though Saint Patrick the patron saint of Ireland and one of the most celebrated religious figures around the world, the factual information about his life and times is quite vague. Most information about St. Patrick has been twisted, embellished, or simply made up over centuries by storytellers, causing much ambiguity about the real life of St. Patrick. However, there are a some elements of his story about which most scholars accept to be true.
According to Coilin Owens, Irish literature expert and Professor Emeritus of English at George Mason University, Saint Patrick is traditionally thought to have lived “between 432-461 A.D., but more recent scholarship moves the dates up a bit.” At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped from his native land of the Roman British Isles by a band pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six years of slavery he escaped to the Irish coast and fled home to Britain.
While back in his homeland, Patrick decided to become a priest and then decided to return to Ireland after dreaming that the voices of the Irish people were calling him to convert them to Christianity.
After studying and preparing for several years, Patrick traveled back to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Although there were already some Christians living in Ireland, St. Patrick was able to bring upon a massive religious shift to Christianity by converting people of power. Says Prof. Owens, “[St. Patrick] is credited with converting the nobles; who set an example which the people followed.”
But Patrick’s desire to spread of Christianity was not met without mighty opposition. Prof. Owens explains, “Patrick ran into trouble with the local pagan priesthood, the druids: and there are many stories about his arguments with them as well as his survival of plots against them.” He laid the groundwork for the establishment of hundreds of monasteries and churches that eventually popped up across the Irish country to promote Christianity.
Saint Patrick is also credited with bringing written word to Ireland through the promotion of the study of legal texts and the Bible, says Prof. Owens. Previous to Patrick, storytelling and history were reliant on memory and orally passing down stories.
Patrick’s mission in Ireland is said to have lasted for thirty years. It is believe he died in the 5th century on March 17, which is the day St. Patrick’s Day is commemorated each year.
The first year St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in America in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1766. As the saying goes, on this day “everybody is Irish!” Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick’s Day parades.
Below you will find a list of fun facts we’ve assembled about the Irish holiday St. Patrick’s Day.
Facts about St. Patrick’s Day Holiday
- St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
- In Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, people traditionally wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jackets or caps. Children wear orange, white and green badges, and women and girls wear green ribbons in their hair.
- Many cities have a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival from March 15-19, that features a parade, family carnivals, treasure hunt, dance, theatre and more. In North American, parades are often held on the Sunday before March 17. Some paint the yellow street lines green for the day! In Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed green with a special dye that only lasts a few hours. There has been a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts since 1737. Montreal is home to Canada’s longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade, which began in 1824.
Facts about Saint Patrick
- St. Patrick was born in 385 AD somewhere along the west coast of Britain, possibly in the Welsh town of Banwen. At age 16, he was captured and sold into slavery to a sheep farmer. He escaped when he was 22 and spent the next 12 years in a monastery. In his 30s he returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He died at Saul in 461 AD and is buried at Downpatrick.
Facts about the Irish
- 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry, according to the 2003 US Census. That’s almost nine times the population of Ireland, which has 4.1 million people.
- Some American towns have “Irish” names. You could visit: Mount Gay-Shamrock, West Virginia; Shamrock Lakes, Indiana; Shamrock, Oklahoma; Shamrock, Texas; Dublin, California and Dublin, Ohio.
- The harp is the symbol of Ireland. The color green is also commonly associated with Ireland, also known as “The Emerald Isle.”
- The Irish flag is green, white and orange. The green symbolizes the people of the south, and orange, the people of the north. White represents the peace that brings them together as a nation.
- The name “lephrechaun” has several origins. It could be from the Irish Gaelic word “leipreachan,” which means “a kind of aqueous sprite.” Or, it could be from “leath bhrogan,” which means “shoemaker.”
Facts about Clovers
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest number of leaves found on a clover is 14!
- One estimate suggests that there are about 10 000 regular three-leaf clovers for every lucky four-leaf clover.
- Legend says that each leaf of the clover means something: the first is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth for luck.
St. Patrick’s Day jokes and riddles will make you laugh for hours!
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