When we typically think of St. Patricks day, we think of the shamrock, the colour green and celebrations. I doubt that many of us actually know the true origins of the day and why it is important to Irish people and Christian’s around the world.
The day, as the name suggests, is about the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick who was born into a wealthy family in Roman Britain in the late 300’s AD.
So, Patrick was not born in Ireland and his name was not even Patrick! He was born Maewyn Succat but chose to go as Patricius which is where his name Patrick came from.
His father was a deacon in the Christian church, however, Patrick was allegedly not particularly religious in his younger years. That is until he was captured by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland to work as a shepherd. Whilst he was working as a shepherd he chose to convert to Christianity and eventually, he claimed to have a vision that instructed him to bring Christianity to the people of Ireland. He proceeded to convert many of the people there who had previously been mostly Druid’s and Pagan’s at the time. Patrick did this by baptizing thousands of people and helped to form over 300 churches.
For all his work St. Patrick was venerated as a Saint in Ireland from the 7th century but it was not until the 1630’s that the 17th of March which is the date we still celebrate today was added to the Catholic Church as the Feast of St. Patrick.
Here you can read about some surprising facts about St Patricks Day:
The History.com article notes that Leprechauns are most likely to be based on Celtic Fairies:
"The red-haired, green-clothed Leprechaun is commonly associated with St. Patrick’s Day. The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow.”
Belief in leprechauns likely stems from Celtic belief in fairies— tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies."
Four Leaf Clover
Hundreds of years ago in Ireland, the four-leaf clover became a symbol of luck with the four leaves representing faith, hope, love, and success.
The Druids (Celtic priests), in the early days of Ireland, believed that when they carried a three-leaf clover or shamrock, they could see evil spirits coming and have a chance to escape in time. Four-leaf clovers were Celtic charms, presumed to offer magical protection and ward off bad luck.
Although we heavily associate St. Patricks Day with Ireland, it is in fact celebrated all over the world. For example, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Korea since 1976 by The Irish Association of Korea and the celebrations in Argentina often attract 50,000 people!
So, this year when you hear about the celebrations or participate in them yourself, hopefully you will know more about St Patrick and his origins!
Happy St. Patricks Day!