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Origins: Saint Patrick’s Day

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Featured

Published on March 13, 2012 with No Comments

Saint Patrick’s Day is perhaps one of the most widely recognized feast days of a saint, right up there with Saint Valentine and Saint Nicholas. But most people associate March 17 with shamrocks, shillelaghs and all things green… so what, exactly, is this day really celebrating?

I’m glad that you asked. Patrick was born to two Roman parents in Britain somewhere around the year 385. However the raiding activities of the Irish eventually came to Patrick’s corner of the island and he was taken as a slave around the age of 14. There are some sources that claim Patrick was taken by the forces of Niall of the 9 Hostages, an infamous ruler who took individuals from defeated enemies to ensure the good behavior of the conquered, but this is not likely as this taking of slaves was very common around this time in Irish history.

So Patrick was taken away from his home and made a shepherd. During his time in the wilderness with the beasts (something he wasn’t used to, as his parents had at least a little station) Patrick turned his prayers to god. He stayed for 6 years, and then was lead away by the guidance of the divine which helped lead him to a boat that took him back to Britain where he was reunited with his family. But that’s just the first part of the story.

Once he’d returned Patrick decided to dedicate his life to the clergy. In time Patrick himself was ordained as a bishop, and he was given the task of taking the gospel to the still mostly pagan lands of Ireland. Patrick began his mission in the year 433, and between his knowledge of the gospel along with his knowledge of the language and ways of the Irish people he began to make headway. Among other legends of his time converting Ireland, it’s said that Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the holy trinity, the idea of three divine beings in a single whole, to the people of the country. And as the story goes Patrick continued on, converting kings and paupers alike until his death in the year 461.

As with any feast day, Saint Patrick’s Day is to celebrate this saint’s achievements and his sacrifice. And one reason that it became such a popular day was that it falls right in the celebration of Lent, which comes with all sorts of fasting requirements. During the celebration in the evening of Saint Patrick’s Day however those requirements are, traditionally, lifted so that Catholics can celebrate the life and achievements of the saint.

The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in America was in the year 1762 in New York City as a way to help Irishmen serving in the English army reconnect with their roots. Irish patriotism only grew from there, hitting a peak during the huge emigration from Ireland to the United States. Once a significant population of Irish immigrants and descendents had come to America they brought Saint Patrick’s Day with them. Assisted by Catholicism in general the feast day has grown to proportions where it’s become one of the bigger secular holidays as well, with notable examples in countries all around the world. 

Source: http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day 

Source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

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About Neal F. Litherland

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal: neal@thechroniclenwi.com.

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