The story of St. Patrick’s Day begins around 385 AD. A boy named Maewyn was born in Britain to Roman parents. At age 16, the Pagan Maewyn was kidnapped, sold into slavery and taken to Ireland. While he was a slave he began to pray to God for the first time. He finally managed to escape slavery six years later and headed to a monastery to study about his new Christian faith. There, he adopted the name “Patrick.” Upon ending his studies, he moved back to Ireland, where he felt his calling in life was to share his new faith in God. For the next 30 years, he traveled throughout the country, built up churches and shared the Gospel with the Pagan Irish natives. St. Patrick died in 461 (on March 17th; when else did you expect?),
So what happened from there? How did a man who spent his entire life converting unbelievers to Christianity result in a day devoted to rowdy songs, parades, and drinking green beer, a day when everyone is just a wee bit Irish? The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was in America, not Ireland. It took place in New York City in 1762, and consisted of Irish soldiers in the English military marching through the city. This was a chance for the soldiers to reconnect with their heritage. Eventually, as more Irish immigrants came to America, the parades were a show of strength for Irish-Americans and political candidates had to make an appearance at them. Now a regular annual event, people of all backgrounds celebrate this day.
Ireland, on the other hand, does not have such a long history of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Prior to the 1970s, it was a religious occasion and, indeed, Irish law mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Apparently, there was no green beer for those in Ireland. This changed around 1995, when the government made a push to use St. Patrick’s Day as a way to drive tourism and to showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Parades and celebrations are now common in Ireland around this day (in fact, their celebrations last several days) and some one million people took part in last year’s festivities in Dublin.
When people nowadays think of this day, they get an image of the shamrock in their head. You see it on the sides of buildings, on hats and clothing, on balloons and decorations. Why? Its origins are rooted in Patrick himself. He used the shamrocks in Ireland as a way to show how the Holy Trinity works: three separate elements of the same entity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If you find yourself or a loved one “in a pinch” this St. Patrick’s Day give us a call. We promise, it won’t cost a pot of gold to get out of jail…