Ever since St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 A.D in Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, many legends have been passed down. As the patron saint of Ireland he is said to have baptized hundreds of people in a day. He explained the Holy Trinity using a three-leafed shamrock.
What is known about St. Patrick comes from his autobiographical confession Confessio, written in Latin around the year 450 A.D. It is a unique record of life at that time. St. Patrick was born in Britain (some say probably Scotland and some say probably England) and sold into slavery at the age of 16 by Irish raiders.
For the six years that followed he worked as a herder in Ireland where he found comfort in religious faith. Following the advice heard in a dream one night, he escaped and managed to find a passage on a ship to Britain and was eventually reunited with his family.
In another dream an person named Victoricus gave him a letter called “The Voice of the Irish”, where felt that he heard the voices of Irishmen pleading to return to their country and walk among them once more.
After studying for the priesthood, he was ordained a bishop and arrived back in Ireland in 433 to begin preaching the Gospel. Many thousands were converted and churches were built around the country. He lived for 40 years in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly.
Since the day St. Patrick died, the Irish have observed the day as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. (Most are familiar with an Irish Wake—a celebration of life and a passing to the next.) Through the centuries these celebrations have evolved.
The first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762.
As time passed, the parades not only became a show of unity and strength for the persecuted Irish-American immigrants, but also a celebration of the wonderful Irish heritage.
Today, March 17, is celebrated internationally and millions of people around the globe wear something green, watch parades, listen to Irish music and drink bear. When I lived in New York I loved the green bagels—a truly cross-cultural event! Everyone loves to be Irish on St. Paddy’s Day.