The Real History of St. Patrick’s Day

Every March 17, people around the world put on green and consume a lot of beer in observance of St. Patrick’s day. But where did this holiday originate from?

March 17 is actually the death day of the the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. St. Patrick is thought to be the author of an extremely old book known as The Declaration, which is where we get almost all of our historical information on him.

Stained glass depiction of St. Patrick

According to The Declaration, St. Patrick was born into a wealthy Romano-British (Britain was part of the Roman Empire during his lifetime), but was kidnapped by Irish raiders who forced him into slavery for six years.

It was during this time that St. Patrick found God- according to the story, God told him to flee for the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. St. Patrick followed this guidance and upon his return home became a priest.

He gained fame over the next 17 years, evangelizing and converting “thousands” of pagan Irish to Christianity.

St. Patrick was said to have used the shamrock (clover) to explain the trinity to the Irish, hence the tradition of shamrocks. The color green has been associated with Ireland since the Irish Catholic Federation used it on their “green harp flag” in the mid-1600s.

The "green harp flag" (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The “green harp flag” (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

BONUS: St. Patrick is often given credit for banishing all the snakes from Ireland, but most scientists agree the island never had snakes. Some hypothesize that this tale is actually referencing the Druids, members of the Celtic priestly class, who often had large snake tattoos on their arms.

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