by Martha Rogers
Every year, thousands of people across our country celebrate what many call "St. Paddy's Day" and have parades and drink green beer to celebrate a man about whom most people know little. So many aren't even aware of the origins of the holiday or the true meaning. All they know is the fun of wearing green, going to parades, eating Irish food, wearing shamrocks of some kind, and having fun at local pubs. I remember getting pinched if I didn't wear something green on March 17.
Just who was St. Patrick and how did he manage to have a holiday named for him? Curiosity drove me to the internet and the number of websites telling the
history of the holiday and the story of St. Patrick amazed me.
The legend has him driving snakes out of Ireland, but did he really drive them out? What was his background? How did all the celebrations surrounding him get started?
St. Patrick, who wasn't Irish by birth or descent, was a Catholic priest whose birth name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat. He changed it to Patricius or Patrick, derived from the Latin term for "father figure." Born in Briton at the time it was part of the Roman Empire, he was taken to Ireland as a slave. Whether he escaped or was released is all speculation, but he later returned to Ireland and became involved with converting Druids to Christianity.
As far as the snake legend is concerned, Ireland never really had snakes like
that and it is believed snakes had become the symbol for the Druids. However, St. Patrick didn't convert all of Ireland to Christianity, so tale is believed to be simply a myth or legend.
Another myth associated with St. Patrick is the use of the shamrock, a three leaved clover, to teach the concept of the Holy Trinity, but nothing like that was ever discovered in his writings, so it joined the ranks of myth and legends. However, the shamrock became associated with St. Patrick and thus a part of the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.
Patrick and his four disciples traveled all over Ireland converting clan chiefs, building churches, opening schools and monasteries and convincing many Irish to become monks and nuns. For forty years he preached throughout Ireland. Most of his life was spent in poverty. He died on March 17, 461 A.D. and that became the day to celebrate his life. He died in his Church in Sabhall, County Down.
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in 1737 in Boston to celebrate the Irish culture in the new colonies. The idea took hold and made it back to Dublin as well as spread to other parts of the colonies. Eventually it spread to other countries and became a popular holiday. In Ireland, it is a national holiday and has been celebrated since the beginning of the 20th century, but they didn't hold a parade in his honor until 1930.
In 1848, several Irish Aid Societies in New York decided to band together for one big parade. That parade has grown into the world's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the U.S. Other large parades are held in Boston, Chicago, Savannah, and Philadelphia. Chicago is even known to dye the river green as it flows through the area.
Today, St. Patrick's Day isn't seen as a religious holiday, but as a day to have fun and drink Guinness beer and dress like Leprechauns. Celtic music, dancing and wearing green are a part of the holiday. It's now largely symbolic, but it's a great day to have fun with your friends. Erin Go Braugh.
To learn more about this day, visit https://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day
Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Since receiving her first novel contract at age 73, Martha has written and published over 50 books. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.
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