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St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday celebrated all around the world to honor the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick.
When Is St. Patrick's Day?
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated each year on March 17th. This day marks the accepted date of Saint Patrick's death in 460 AD.
Who Was Saint Patrick?
The person who was to become Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales around 390 AD. His given name was Maewyn.
At the age of sixteen Saint Patrick was kidnapped from his native land of the Roman British Isles by a band pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for comfort. During his captivity he became a Christian and adopted the name Patrick. After six years of slavery he escaped to the Irish coast and fled home to Britain.
While back in his homeland, Patrick decided to become a priest. Patrick wanted to return to Ireland after dreaming that the voices of the Irish people were calling him to convert them to Christianity.
After studying and preparing for several years, Patrick traveled back to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Although there were already some Christians living in Ireland, Saint Patrick was able to bring upon a massive religious shift to Christianity by converting people of power.
One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. One Irish tale tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day. Eventually this tradition led to the wearing of green.
There is much Irish folklore that surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much of it is actually substantiated. Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people from the dead. He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native to Ireland, and some people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday.
The first year St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in America in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. The first official St. Patrick's Day parade was held in New York City in 1766. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!" Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick's Day parades.