Kendra Renner

Kendra Renner

I

 am here to explain another holiday icon origin. This will be a nice little read to go with your morning or afternoon coffee (easy on the cream). 

Some of you may be well-rehearsed on the origin of St. Patrick’s Day and who St. Patrick actually was, but for those who don’t, I figured it out for you!

First, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish at all. He was born in Britain in about 385 A.D. into a wealthy family. At age 16 he was kidnapped by a group of raiders who took him to Ireland where he was enslaved. 

In captivity, St. Patrick turned to his religion for solace and comfort as he labored outdoors. It is said that this is when he began to envision converting the Irish people to Christianity. After six years imprisoned, he escaped by walking almost 200 miles to the Irish coast. 

However, St. Patrick was not quite welcomed with open arms. Many believed he was not kidnapped but rather left on his own will to the Irish land. This may be why he later returned to Ireland to begin his studies to become a priest, a process which took almost 15 years. 

Later in life, St. Patrick traveled building churches, and became a bishop. After 40 years of preaching and establishing places of worship, St. Patrick died March 17, 461 A.D. Interestingly, he passed away in Saul, Northern Ireland, the location where he built his first church. 

St. Patrick is said to have baptized “hundreds” of people every day throughout his ministry. Another fun fact is that St. Patrick is often depicted in art works as stomping on snakes as it is said he drove them out of Ireland.

OK, so St. Patrick’s Day actually marks the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death date. Creepy. So, why has a death been married with shamrocks and bearded little men with top hats?

Well, it is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. Each leaf was used to symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

As far as leprechauns go, well, they don’t have much to do with St. Patrick at all. In fact, they are said to be depictions of the Tuatha De Danaan tribe of Ireland — gifted craftsmen who built burial mounds and tombs. They were said to have been sneaky and crafty men who enjoyed solidarity. Being sneaky here means finding gold and not telling other people about it. Legend has it if you caught a leprechaun, he would tell you the location of his treasures in return for his escape. 

The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration (held in the United States) was held in 1737 in Boston to celebrate its many Irish immigrants. The Irish have been celebrating St. Patrick for thousands of years. 

However, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held not in Ireland, but in New York City, in 1762. Irish-American soldiers marched in the parade to commemorate their heritage and show cultural pride and unity. Interestingly, during the Siege of Boston during the American Revolution in 1776, General Washington used the words “Boston” and “St. Patrick” as passwords for evacuation — pretty cool.

Since then, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated pretty much all across the globe with the Feast of Saint Patrick on March 17 of each year. If you recognize holidays or they are part of your beliefs, then you are probably either going to be parading, partying, or praying this Sunday, because for some, St. Patrick’s Day is a day to commemorate a missionary who dedicated his life to his faith and life journey, and for others it’s an excuse to drink green beer.