Today is March 17th, so that means it is Saint Patrick’s Day! It is the day celebrated around the globe by those of Irish descent, as well as those who are “Irish at heart.” The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years.
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. Interestingly enough, he wasn’t even born in Ireland! He was actually born in Roman Britain. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. At one point, he escaped from his enslavement, but ultimately, he returned to Ireland. Saint Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland.
The people of Ireland began observing the Roman Catholic feast day of Saint Patrick on March 17th because the date of his death is thought to have been on March 17, 461. As the years passed, myths and legends about Saint Patrick have become more and more ingrained into the Irish culture. The most widely known legend is that Saint Patrick explained the Holy Trinity (which is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. This explains why shamrocks and the color green have become closely associated with Saint Patrick’s Day.
Saint Patrick’s Day is now celebrated globally with parades and festivals. It is interesting to note that the first parade in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day did not take place in Ireland, but rather in the United States on March 17th, 1762. This parade was comprised of Irish soldiers serving in the English military before American had won her independence from Britain. The parade was held in New York City.
So, how do leprechauns, pots of gold and rainbows tie into Saint Patrick’s Day? In Irish lore, a leprechaun is an Irish fairy, except this fairy isn’t a typical pretty fairy. Instead, a leprechaun is a two-foot tall, old man with pointy ears! He wears a green suit and top hat and carries a big stick called a shillelagh. He uses his shillelagh to scare people away who try to steal his pot of gold! He likes to spend his time doing nothing more than seeking more gold! Leprechauns are said to be inherently lucky and they find the gold they are seeking at the end of rainbows. This myth has led to the creation of the saying, “The luck of the Irish.”
Now that you are armed with a bit of history and lore of this fun day, I sincerely hope that you have yourself a very Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!