Saint Patrick’s Day

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February 21, 2011

On Saint Patrick’s Day, many Americans boast of Irish heritage without knowing where the holiday comes from. While exact details cannot be known, historians generally agree on many important highlights of Saint Patrick’s life. Patrick was born to parents who were likely Roman Britons and probably not Christian. Around age sixteen, Patrick was captured and transported to Ireland as a slave. After working in captvity as a shepherd for six years, he escaped to the Irish coast and eventually joined a monastery in France.

Legend has it that Patrick had a dream that inspired him to become a missionary and return to the land where he was held captive for so many years. He spent the rest of his life evangelizing in Ireland. There, the story goes, he taught the Irish about the trinity using the three leaf clover as an example. Saint Patrick was eventually ordained as a bishop in the Catholic faith. He died around the year 461 CE, supposedly on March 17th.

Saint Patrick’s death date became sacred in Ireland and later, an Irish day of pride. Irish immigrants who came to the United States brought this belief with them. The tradition of celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in the U.S. began in the late 1760s on the East Coast. After successive waves of Irish immigrants spread across the country, it evolved into a widespread day of celebration associated with four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, and the color green. Today, St. Patrick’s day is a time for those of Irish descent to celebrate their heritage, and perhaps learn a bit more about Ireland’s history.