St. Patrick's Day,
also known as Feast of Saint Patrick (irish:Lá Fhéile Pádraig), is celebrated as a religious and cultural holiday on March 17 annually in Ireland, but it's also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora around the world, especially in Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Saint Patrick's Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.
;St. Patrick of Ireland
(387 – 461 A.D.) was born in Bannaven Taburniae/Roman Britain
to Calpurnius (a deacon) and his wife Conchessa. At age 16 he was taken captive by by Irish raiders and taken to Gaelic Ireland, where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. He worked as a shepherd for his master in these years. During his exile he turned to God. As written by himself in the Declaration
, God told him in a dream to make his escape and that “his ship was ready” and that it was two hundred miles away. He found the ship and after several adventures finally returned home to his family. Now in his early twenties, Patrick continued to study Christianity.
He studied for the priesthood, was ordained a bishop, and was sent to Ireland as Christian missionary to convert the Pagan Irish to Christianity. He arrived there on the Feast of the Annunciation
, March 25th, 433 at Slane. According to the Declaration
he spent many years evangelizing in the northern half of Ireland and converted and baptized thousands, founding monasteries, dioceses and churches, as well as ordaining priests and nuns.
He died on March 17th, 461 A.D. and is buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down
, alongside St. Brigid
and St. Columba
, although this has never been proven. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland's foremost saint.
“I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.”
According to Legend (dating to 1726, though it may be older) St. Patrick used the shamrock
, a three-leaved plant,
to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God while teaching the Holy Trinity
to the Pagan Irish. In Pagan Ireland, the
shamrock had been seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days due its green color and overall shape. It was seen as representation of rebirth and eternal life
was not only a significant, but also a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were many triple deities
in ancient Ireland, including Brigid, Ériu
and the Morrigan
. The triple spiral symbol
appears at many ancient megalithic sites in Ireland. Due to all these reasons, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick's Day.
The colour green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s because of the Green Harp Flag
used by the Irish Catholic Conderation
. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick's Day since at least the 1680s. However, the 1783 founded Order of St. Patrick
adopted blue as its colour, which led to blue being associated with St Patrick. During the 1790s, green became associated with Irish nationalism
when it was used by the United Irishmen
. The phrase "wearing of the green"
comes from a song of the same name, which laments United Irishmen supporters being persecuted for wearing green. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick's Day grew.
Legend says St. Patrick
banished all snakes from Ireland, chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. However, all evidence suggests that Ireland never had snakes, so there was nothing for St. Patrick to banish. The only biological candidate species for appearing like a native snake in Ireland is the slow worm
, which is actually a legless lizard. But because of his association with snakes, St. Patrick is associated with the deity Damballa
(Irish: leipreachán) is a type of fairy, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha Dé Danann
of Irish mythology. It is believed that they are merry, industrious, grumpy, untrustworthy and very tricky elves, who do all the shoemaker's work for the fairies and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
They are often seen at sunset under the hedge singing and stitching.
According to legend, you can track down a Leprechaun
by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer. If ever captured by a human, the Leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release or you can force him to tell the whereabouts of his Pot of Gold. However, be careful! You must keep your eye on him every second. Otherwise the Leprechaun will trick you and disappear.
Popular depiction shows the Leprechaun
as tiny elves, no taller than a small child, with a beard and hat, although they may originally have been perceived as the tallest of the mound-dwellers (the Tuatha Dé Danann).
generally involve public parades and festivals
, and the wearing of green attire
. Christians also attend church services
, and the Lenten restriction
on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday's tradition of alcohol consumption. St. Patrick
is celebrated worldwide, even when it is not a legal holiday like in the USA, where is has been celebrated since the late eighteenth century.
Usually the church calendar
avoids the observance of saints' feasts during certain solemnities, moving the saint's day to a time outside those periods. However, St. Patrick's
is occasionally affected by this requirement, when 17 March falls during Holy Week
. This last happened in 2008
, where it was officially observed on 15 March
to avoid conflict with the Holy Easter Week
, starting on 16th. The Vatican aka Pope Benedict XVI
approved it in 2007. Before that it happened in 1940
, when Saint Patrick's Day was observed on 3 April
in order to avoid it coinciding with Palm Sunday
. However, the secular celebration is always held on 17 March. Saint Patrick's Day will not fall within Holy Week again until 2160.
Fairy of St. Patty's DayUpon the cliffs of the Land of Eire
Dwells a fairy who only comes out to play
With locks of fire, sharp and green-eyed Tara,
The fairy only seen on St. Patty's Day.
She flutters over hills in giddy young fashion,
Kissing the faces of children most blessed
Who inherit the relentless, unyielding passion
That only the Irish know to possess.
With light skin as white as the coastal beach sand,
Quick, joyous songs upon scarlet lips,
Good fairy Tara clasps brass harp in fair hands,
Swinging by grace of young fingertips.
She travels cobbled stones of Dublin her home
As she dances favorite steps of the jig and the reel;
While with only one day from her dark cliffs to roam,
She visit's the merry in full Irish zeal.
Clad in the colors-orange, white, and green-
Good fairy Tara prepares to take flight;
She leaves in the shining moonlit gleams
Of the glow and magic of St. Patty's Day night.
St. Patty's DayOver every rainbow
there is a pot of gold
with a leprechaun
as we've always been told.
When the rain is gone
the sun will shine.
That pot of gold
will be mine.
Irish DreamsMy dreams of Ireland are painted
with pastel green eye shadows
and emerald bushels of garland
that glisten in the charcoal night.
They're visions of golden showers
and fresh aquamarine dew drops
that embrace the lively bedrock,
awakening the creatures within.
They're the rush of bustling winds
weaving through the loose locks
of Irish boys and their lovers,
dancing under the Celtic stars.
They're the ancient melodies
that consume every fantasy heart
and yearner of good luck,
well-wishers and explorers.
My dreams of Ireland are painted
with every enticing touch of beauty
that one could possibly imagine.