The St. Patrick’s Day Saint Who Spread Christianity to Ireland Wasn’t Irish

  • St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 as it is the day historians believe he died.
  • Vacations weren’t always the way we see them today. Once upon a time there was a solemn time in Ireland when bars remained closed.
  • Although attributed with the spread of Christianity in Ireland, St. Patrick did not really drive the snakes away from the island.

Who was Saint Patrick and why do we celebrate him? Saint Patrick is the patron saint and guide of Ireland. Ironically, he was not Irish.

According to Elizabeth Stack, executive director of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, New York, Saint Patrick went from being sold into slavery to being credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

“He dreamed that the Irish were crying for him that they needed him,” Stack said. “He returns to Ireland and brings Christianity with him. It was he who made Celts and pagans Christians.”

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the day he is believed to have died. The holiday was originally linked to religious ideals, but is now also a symbol of Irish pride.

According to Stack, until about 40 years ago it was a very traditional, religious and solemn time in Ireland. The bars even remained closed.

But things have changed. Fun symbols such as wearing green, leprechauns and shamrocks were popularized during this holiday. Yet what are their real meanings?

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Who was Saint Patrick?

Saint Patrick was born in Britain in 386.

At 16, he was captured by pirates and brought to Ireland where he was sold into slavery, according to Stack.

“He spent his days and nights in the fields tending sheep and praying, a regular routine of prayer and work that reshaped the rest of his life,” said Matthew Paul Grote, a Catholic priest from the Order of Preachers, in a press release. in the USA TODAY. “It was after six years of this that he heard the voice of God in a dream, directing him to a ship that would take him home.”

Patrick escaped to France in 408 AD and was eventually reunited with his family and Ireland, according to Stack.

He was ordained a bishop in 432 AD and sent by Pope Celestine I to Ireland to spread Christianity and support the Christians already living there. To combat resistance to Christianity, he incorporated pagan rituals into church practices.

“Patrick fired with a desire to help alleviate the suffering of the people of Ireland who were burdened under the yoke of slavery, brutal tribal warfare and pagan idolatry. It was in the midst of this vocational experience that he understood his call to become a Catholic priest,” Grote said in an emailed statement.

According to Grote, Patrick was repeatedly attacked and captured by Irish clans. However, Patrick used non-violent approaches and would willingly surrender. He would then take this opportunity to teach the Catholic faith.

Saint Patrick died in 461 AD probably on March 17, the date on which he is now celebrated.

“Patrick is an icon of the gospel message of love and forgiveness, and all the hard work and social effort that hard work takes in real life,” Grote said.

Why is Saint Patrick important?

Saint Patrick is the one who brought Christianity to Ireland. He wrote two books, “Confessio”, a spiritual autobiography and a “Letter to Coroticus”, where he urged the British to stop mistreating Irish Christians.

There are legends surrounding St. Patrick, such as crediting him with eradicating snakes from Ireland and saving Ireland’s High King, Stack said.

“They said he chased the snakes out of Ireland, but in fact there wouldn’t have been any snakes in Ireland anyway because the climate is not good for snakes,” Stack said. . “Snakes were a symbol for the pagans, so he got rid of all the pagans.”

What is Saint Patrick’s Day?

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 17. The day also falls during the Christian holiday of Lent, a 40-day period filled with prayer and fasting.

Irish Christians go to church in the morning and then celebrate in the afternoon. The Catholic holiday has been celebrated since the 8th century in Ireland.

Amazingly, the first record of a St. Patrick’s Day parade was in St. Augustine, Florida, not Ireland, in 1601. Back then, it was a Spanish colony. The parade and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration a year earlier were organized by Irish vicar Ricardo Artur, according to Stack.

How did it come to the United States?

The Irish immigrant population increased in America following the potato famine. The first parade took place in New York in 1762, but became an annual thing in 1851 when the Irish Aid Societies began holding annual parades. Being particularly important in New York, this parade is now considered the oldest civilian parade in the world and the largest in the United States, with more than 150,000 participants, according to History.com.

Initially, the Irish were shunned by the United States, being classified as heavy drinkers and uneducated in newspaper cartoons. However, as they increased in number, they began to have political power. They used St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday to celebrate their heritage.

“The parade started with Irish American soldiers trying to demonstrate their loyalty to America,” Stack said. “The parade was a way to show that they could be good American citizens.”

This tradition later returned to Ireland. Parades are now tools to encourage tourism, export Irish culture, heritage and music, Stack said.

“It’s supposed to be a day to feel proud to be Irish, but growing up in Ireland it was more of a school-free day,” Marigold White told USA TODAY.

An Irish national who has lived in the United States but currently lives in Australia, White said: “As an adult and especially living overseas from Ireland, it has had cultural significance, although I am sometimes embarrassed by the excuse given to the Irish to use the day just to get drunk.There is so much more about Ireland to celebrate.

What’s wrong with clover?

One of the legends surrounding St. Patrick is how he used the shamrock to teach others about Christianity. Apparently he made an analogy to the Holy Trinity with the shamrock.

He explained how the clover has three leaves but it is still a flower. This parallels the Holy Trinity, where there is God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but still one entity. The shamrock is now the official flower of Ireland and is worn to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, according to Stack.

OK, but what about the leprechaun?

Leprechaun was born out of the idea that the Celtics believed in fairies and other magical beings who use their powers to scare away evil. The association is believed to have come from the popular 1959 Disney film “Darby O’Gill & the Little People,” which features Irish pixies, Stack says.

Stack also credits Lucky Charms as a way to popularize the pixie in the United States.

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