History of St. Patrick’s Day, Irish holiday has its roots in Christianity
Origins of March 17th celebration began with a teen-ager, pirates, slavery and a lifelong devotion to God.
St. Patrick’s Day is known in the United States for green clothing, green beer and colorful parades.
But its origins are deeply religious. In fact, March 17th is still a religious holiday in Ireland to this day.
Who was St. Patrick?
The holiday had its beginnings with a man named Maewyn Succat. He was born in Roman England around 390 A.D. His father was an officer in the Roman army.
Historians say Succat was kidnapped by pirates when he was 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland. The website, Kaboose.com, says Succat worked as a shepherd for six years to seek solace from his misery. He eventually escaped and went to Gaul in what is now France. He studied at a monastery for a dozen years under St. Germain.
The website, historyspot.com, says Succat took the name Patricius when he became a priest. He eventually changed that to Patrick. Over the years, Succat became convinced God had destined him to convert the pagans in Ireland to Christianity. It’s believed Succat traveled back to Ireland when he was about 60, preaching the gospel.
The Celtic Druids were not amused. They arrested Succat several times, but he managed to escape on every occasion.
Historians say Succat died on March 17th in the year 461. He was eventually given sainthood and St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated on the anniversary of his death ever since.
The holiday has always been a religious occasion in Ireland, much like Easter or Christmas. It is honored with feasts, parades, charity events and a Catholic mass.
The celebration was brought to the United States by immigrants. The first recorded public activity was a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston in 1737. The annual New York City parade began in 1762. It is now the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States.
St. Pat’s Traditions
The tradition of turning the Chicago river green on March 17th began in 1962. Vegetable dye was used then to keep the river green for a week. Now, food coloring is used and the water remains green for only a few hours.
It’s believed the tradition of the shamrock was instituted because Succat used the three-leaf flower to demonstrate the Trinity – the father, son and Holy Spirit.
It’s not believed St. Patrick actually drove snakes from Ireland and into the sea. Historians say that tale is symbolic. Snakes represent pagan beliefs and the story represents St. Patrick driving paganism from Ireland.