Saint Patrick is the patron saint credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. People all over the world commemorate him on 17th March.
Patrick (c. AD 387–461) is believed to have come from a wealthy family in Roman Britain who had already converted to Christianity. It is thought that his father and grandfather were prominent Church members. Patrick was kidnapped and taken into slavery, possibly to the west coast of Ireland, when he was sixteen. He remained in Ireland until he was twenty two when God told him in a dream to leave Ireland and go home. Patrick escaped and boarded a ship back to the mainland and joined the Church, studying to be a priest.
By around 432 he was a bishop and was called back to Ireland by God to bring Christianity to the Irish people. He is said to have explained the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to people using a three-leafed shamrock or white clover. This plant and the colour green has been associated with him and Ireland ever since. Legend has it that the reason why there are no snakes in Ireland today is because St Patrick drove them all away, believing them to represent evil. Patrick remained in Ireland for the rest of his life and is believed to have died on 17th March 461.
Celebrating St Patrick’s Day
St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and in other parts of the world where people of Irish descent are prominent. It has also become a celebration of Irish culture as well as a day of religious observance and activities include taking part in parades, holding parties, wearing shamrocks, dressing in green and general socialising.
Formerly a day of religious observance and quiet celebration in Ireland, St Patrick’s Day has become more of a carnival. The first recorded St Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York, 1762 when Irish soldiers marched through the city and Irish immigrant communities in America also began celebrating their heritage in this way. These customs have spread all over the world, wherever Irish people have settled.
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