Aye, and begorrah, ‘tis the day we’re all a little Irish as we celebrate St. Paddy’s Day.
Saint Patrick’s Day started as a commemoration of the death of Patrick of Ireland. But who was the man that later became known as Saint Patrick?
Patricius, or Patrick, is believed to have lived during the 5th century. He was born in Roman Britain to a clerical family—his father was a decurion and his grandfather a priest. At 16, it is said he was kidnapped from his home by Irish pirates and sold into slavery, spending the next six years tending sheep for his master. After his escape back to Britain, Patrick had visions that led him to become a Christian missionary in Ireland.
Legend says Saint Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity and banished all the snakes from Ireland. Because three was a significant number in pagan Ireland, the analogy with the shamrock was one way for Patrick to convert some of the Irish to Christianity. Some think his banishing the snakes from Ireland is a metaphor for Christian priests replacing the druids as spiritual leaders.
While the year of Saint Patrick’s death is unclear, it is believed to be March 17, 461. In the early 17th century, the date was named the official feast day of Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, by the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. In the centuries since, the day has morphed into a day of partying and binge-drinking, which has drawn criticism.
This year, 2020, Saint Patrick’s Day will be celebrated without the parties. Without the parades. Without the traditional green. In some places, it will be honored as a feast day. In others, some will raise a glass and toast the shamrock. From online, we’ll tell each other, “Happy St Paddy’s Day.”
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