Most people, including myself until recently, know little to nothing about St. Patrick’s Day, other than it is a day when everyone must wear visible green or expect to get pinched all day! But both the life of St. Patrick and the various traditions surrounding his day are extremely interesting.
The Story of St. Patrick
St. Patrick, although known as the patron saint of Ireland, was not born there, nor was he of Irish nationality. He was believed to have been born in Scotland to Roman parents. As a teen, he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was a slave, herding sheep for six years. During this time, he became fluent in the Irish language, which was, at that time, quite different from English, and turned to God for his strength and support, developing a deep and strong prayer life.
He had a vision from God telling him to run to the coast, where he would find a ship that he could escape on. He did so, and eventually made it to France, where his devotion to God led him to study and become a priest and later a bishop. He then had another vision, in which the people of Ireland were begging him to come walk among them once more.
He spent the rest of his life in Ireland, preaching the gospel to the people there, and teaching others to do the same. Although there are evidences of other Christians in Ireland before St. Patrick, he is credited with having converted the island to Christianity. Up until his work there, the island was still predominantly pagan. He died there among the people he loved so much, and was buried in a secret location by close friends to shut down some bickering among groups who coveted the honor of burying the beloved missionary.
Traditions and Symbols
The Shamrock– Used time out of mind as a symbol for Spring and new life. Some traditions say St. Patrick used it as an illustration of the Trinity, but this is now mostly believed to be false. Irish Christians did, however, use the shamrock as a symbol of the cross. It has become known today as a symbol of luck, especially a 4 leaved clover!
Wear Green or Be Pinched–
That’s just the way it was growing up! I have found two stories about how this came to be. The first one is that the Irish used to believe that if you didn’t wear green, leprachauns would pinch you or cause other mischief, therefore anyone else will also pinch you to remind you of this. Not only does no one believe this anymore, but apparently most Irish have never even heard of this and think it’s completely ridiculous. The second story is that it was a symbol of Irish independence and national pride, and that people who didn’t wear green would get pinched for their lack of support and national pride. This seems more likely.
Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
1. Wear Green- obviously!
2. Cook Irish- find some fun St. Patrick’s Day recipes!
3. Join in the festivities at a local pub!
4. Donate to those carrying on St. Patrick’s lifelong work!
5. Enjoy the Spring awakening here in the mountains!
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