St Patrick's day is a public holiday on March 17th. We now know it as a day full of green, shamrocks, leprechauns, and Irish food! But how did this holiday come about? The history of St Patrick's day is very interesting. It starts, of course, with Saint Patrick himself.
Who was Saint Patrick?
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. However, he was not actually Irish! He was born in Britain. At age 16, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. There he spent six years, working as a shepherd. While he was enslaved, he turned to religion, becoming an evangelical Christian. After his six years in Ireland, he escaped back to Britain and became a priest. Once in Ireland, he spread the word of his religion to many of the people there, resulting in what is believed to be thousands of people becoming Christian. Legends say that St Patrick was known to use the shamrock as an illustration of the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. He started churches and schools during his time in Ireland. St Patrick is believed to have died on March 17th, the day that is now widely known as St Patrick's day.
Why do we wear green on St Patrick's Day?
In a nutshell, green is a color used to show national pride in Ireland, much like the United States uses red, white, and blue. As St. Patrick's Day celebrations became more common and widespread, so did the tradition of wearing green during the holiday. However, it was not always green! In the 1500s, England's King Henry the VIII declared himself to be King of Ireland as well. Because King Henry the VIII's flag was blue, Ireland was then represented by the color blue too. It was not until 1641 that the Irish fought against England's rule in the Great Irish Rebellion. During this time, the Irish used a green flag, and that is how green became associated with Irish pride.
When was the first St Patrick's Day celebration?
After St Patrick died on March 17, 461, he remained a legend in the church. The first celebration of St Patrick's Day that we know of was in 1631, when the Church organized a Feast Day on March 17th in his honor. Celebrations became more commonplace later in the 1700s as more Irish people moved to the United States. The first New York City St Patrick's Day Parade was in 1762, and the celebrations have only gotten more and more popular since!
How is St Patrick's Day celebrated now?
For many, St Patrick's Day is now a day celebrating Irish culture. People wear green and decorate with shamrocks. Many also share legends about the mischievous leprechaun, a mythical creature from Irish folklore. People cook traditional Irish meals, such as soda bread, stew, boxty, colcannon, bread pudding, and much more!
While people today associate St Patrick's Day with leprechauns, shamrocks, and the color green, it started as a feast observing the incredible life and tales of St Patrick. It was so long ago that some of what we know about him comes from legend and rumors, but some of it comes from a book called the Declaration, which is said to be written by St Patrick.
We hope that everybody has a wonderful St Patrick's Day!