A Brief History of Saint Patrick’s Day

Top o’ the morning to you and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

When you think of Saint Patrick’s Day, you probably think of people drinking everything dyed green and everybody talking about how they are as Irish as the blarney stone for the day. While that is all fun, we would like to present you with a brief history and some interesting facts about Saint Patrick’s Day.

For starters, who was Saint Patrick? Contrary to what some people think, Saint Patrick was not originally from Ireland. He was born in Roman controlled Britain around the end of the fourth century, 301 AD – 400 AD, and was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland when he was 16 years old.

Saint Patrick was enslaved for six years before he escaped to a monastery in present day France where he was converted to Christianity. After his conversion Saint Patrick returned to Britain and later said that God came to him in a dream and told him that he needed to go back to Ireland and serve a mission for the Catholic Church. This started him on his path to becoming a Catholic priest. Once his training was finished, he was sent to Ireland to minister and convert the Irish who still held and practiced pagan beliefs to Christianity.

After 40 years of teaching of Christianity and converting many of the Irish to Catholicism, Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461 in the same city where he had built his first Catholic Church. After his death, Patrick was named the patron saint of Ireland and later on the patron saint of engineers since he has been credited with teaching the Irish how to build arches of lime mortar.

Along with centuries of history that come with the holiday there are a few surprising bits of trivia too.

Did you know that the color most commonly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day used to be blue? The change from blue to green is thought to be because of Ireland’s nickname the world over being “The Emerald Isle.” As well as the green that is part of the Irish flag and the natural color of the shamrock (a three leaf clover) which is the national flower and emblem of Ireland. According to legend, the shamrock was also used by Saint Patrick when spreading the teachings of the Catholic Church to explain the Holy Trinity.

The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the United States was held in Boston in 1737 by Irish soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. The celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in the United States became a way for Irish-Americans to connect to their roots and homeland. This lead to the first recorded Saint Patrick’s Day parade being held in New York City in 1762 and popularized with the help of the large increase of Irish immigrants to the United States during the mid-19th century.

The holiday became a global event in 1995, when the government of Ireland began a campaign that used St. Patrick’s Day as a way of marketing the country and bringing in more tourism.

What started as a religious holiday in the Catholic Church and a way for Irish immigrants to America to show unity and strength in the face of persecution had gone global. Ever since then has had people of all backgrounds the world over celebrating along with the Irish every March 17.

Story By: Carlee Blumenthal

Photo Courtesy of: William A. Thomas at Irish Central