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The Lighthouse News

What do we know about St. Patrick?

three green shamrocks

Saint Patrick’s Day is a holiday that many people have heard of, but what is it? Where did it come from? Saint Paddy’s Day takes place on March 17th and is the day Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick, died at age seventy-eight. Saint Patrick’s Day is a day that celebrates Christianity in Ireland and is a religious holiday.

Who is Saint Patrick? Why is he important? Nobody knows where Patrick was born, but records suggest England, Wales, and Scotland are all possible places. Saint Patrick was alive when the Romans still controlled the British Isles. His father was a senator for Rome and a tax collector. Patrick’s grandfather was a priest.

Patrick admitted to never fully believing in his grandfather’s teachings until he was held captive. Yes, you read that right, held captive. How the heck did that happen? Well, at age sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by a group of Irish pirates. For six years, Patrick was a slave. During this chapter in his life, he started to pray. Patrick got in touch with his god during those times and claimed to hear voices saying he would be free someday. He converted to Christianity and was cleansed of his sins.

Patrick finally escaped and found himself at a port. He convinced a captain to let him tag along. After sailing for three days, Patrick walked for twenty-eight days before finally reaching what is most likely modern-day Britain. Patrick went on to learn more about religion and urged others to reconnect with their faith. He returned home to his family sometime in his early twenties.

Patrick studied and finally became a priest. Priest Patrick was a generous man. He would not take any form of payment for any religious service and sent gifts to men in power. Patrick went on to baptize thousands of people and convert many others. Patrick eventually returned to Ireland and continued to spread Christianity. Not everyone loved him or his ideas. He was assaulted, robbed, and captured once again. They imprisoned him for another sixty days. Geez, this guy has been through a lot.

There are many legends surrounding Saint Patrick, but after all, legends are just legends. Some believe Saint Patrick used the shamrock to help teach the Irish pagans about the three Christian deities. Each leaf would represent a deity: the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit. Saint Patrick is depicted holding a staff or cross in one hand and a shamrock in the other. Another legend suggests that a snake attacked Patrick during one of his journeys through the mountains. That led him to chase all the snakes out of Ireland. With scientific advancements, we know that the lack of snakes is due to a glacier. There are plenty of stories attached to Saint Patrick, but there isn’t any evidence supporting them.

We observe Saint Paddy’s Day in different ways. Many places hold parades, wear green, attend church, and cook foods like soda bread, corned beef, and cabbage. Leprechauns have also become part of the Saint Pat’s Day story. Why? Leprechauns are a type of faery from old Irish folklore. These silly little creatures aren’t related to the holiday except that both are Irish. Leprechauns weren’t associated with Saint Patrick’s Day until the release of Walt Disney’s nineteen-fifty-nine movie, Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Saint Patrick’s Day is a fascinating holiday. I was excited to learn more about it.

I hope you enjoyed our time together learning a bit about Irish history. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

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