The history of St. Patrick’s Day, much like the history of other holidays, starts with a Saint. It is, of course, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who this holiday was originally celebrated for.
Saint Patrick’s real life is hard to know, as stories have a tendency of being changed, twisted, embellished, or made more ambiguous over time. However, most everyone agrees that St. Patrick was a devoted man who helped many in Ireland come to Christianity; he helped start many churches and monasteries, and is said to have really helped and furthered people’s ability to read and write. To understand the history of St. Patrick’s Day, you first have to understand why the man is celebrated
The story goes like so:
- St. Patrick was believed to have lived between 432-461 A.D
- When at age sixteen, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland.
- After six years of working as a shepherd slave he escaped and returned to Britain, his home.
- During the hardship of his slavery he had turned to religion for peace and solace, so upon returning home, he dedicated his life to becoming a priest, and dreamed of returning to Ireland to help convert the people to Christianity.
It took several years for his dream of going to Ireland as a missionary to happen, but when he did, he helped to bring about a huge religious shift to Christianity by converting people in power
His success was met with a lot of opposition, as the druids and pagan priesthood tried to thwart him, and in his efforts to escape, much of the groundwork for monasteries and churches was laid.
Saint Patrick was adamant that people should study the Bible and legal texts so they could understand their rights and liberties, and because of this he is credited with bringing the written word to Ireland, which made preserving the history of Ireland much more reliable, as it was not passed only orally, but through writing.
It is believed that his mission lasted for thirty years, and that he died on March 17th.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is commemorated on this day. It started as a celebration in Ireland, but as people emigrated to the US, they brought their traditions with them. The first year St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in America was in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. From there it gradually gained notice and popularity, and the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in 1766 in New York City, with soldiers marching to music to raise the morale of the Irish immigrants. The tradition went that on that day, everyone was Irish and we are all one big happy Irish family.
Through the years various other traditions have been added such as the shamrock, leprechaun legends, green beer, corned beef and cabbage and more, but the true history of St. Patrick’s Day can be credited to one man who brought Christian religion to thousands.