St. Patrick and the Origins of St. Patrick’s Day
A Celebration of Ireland
St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, which is the traditional death date of Saint Patrick – the patron saint of Ireland. While St. Patrick’s Day pays homage to Ireland, and celebrations are held in the country, many people in the United States also pay homage, especially due to the large number of Irish people who migrated to the country many years ago.
The Story of St. Patrick
Born under the name Maewyn Succat, St. Patrick decided to change his name to Patricius after becoming a priest. He was born by the end of the fourth century in Britain, not Ireland. Aged 16, he was captured by a band of Irish raiders who attacked the estate that belonged to his wealthy family. He was taken to Ireland and held captive there for six years. Many people think he was brought to live on Mount Slemish in County Antrim, but it’s more likely that he was detained in County Mayo close to Killala.
The Life of St. Patrick
“We know that he was a Roman citizen, because Britain was Roman then, and then he was enslaved and taken to Ireland, where he either escaped or was released,” said Marion Casey, a clinical assistant professor of Irish Studies at New York University. “And then he became a priest and went back to Ireland, where he had a lot of luck converting the Druid culture into Christians.”
St. Patrick’s Legacy
Patrick, who was familiar with the Irish language and culture, decided against eradicating old Irish beliefs and incorporated them into his lessons on Christianity. For instance, he utilized bonfires to celebrate Easter because the Irish were accustomed to honoring their gods with fire. In order to make Irish worship of the sign seem more natural, he also added a powerful Irish symbol-the sun-to the Christian cross to create what is now known as a Celtic cross.