Although March 17th is not a national holiday in the United States, most communities across the country find themselves celebrating. What for? St. Patrick’s Day, of course! This day marks the fifth century death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In the United States, many families with Irish ancestry honor St. Patrick by dressing head to toe in green, donning “kiss me I’m Irish” pins, and eating traditional Irish dinners. It’s even a holiday for those who have no Irish roots, but enjoy green beer and the once a year “Shamrock Shakes” at McDonalds.
Surprisingly however, many Darien High School students do not know much about St. Patrick, or for that matter, why he is honored every March 17th. According to the Irish literature expert Mr. Coilin Owens, Saint Patrick “lived between 432-461 A.D. He was born in Britain and spent his childhood there.” At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by pirates and was sold into slavery on the Irish Coast. St. Patrick worked as a shepherd and turned towards Christianity for comfort. After six years of enslavement, he escaped from Ireland and fled back home to Britain.
While back in his homeland, St. Patrick decided to become a priest and to return to Ireland after dreaming that the Irish people were calling him to convert them to Christianity. After many preparations, Patrick traveled back to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He spent a lot of time teaching the Irish about Christianity. But, St. Patrick was not remembered solely because he spread Christianity. He was remembered for the way in which he explained the religion.
“St. Patrick became famous by using shamrocks to explain religious ideas to the Irish,”said University of Massachusetts professor, Mr. Robert Wrotham.
Many people believe this is how shamrocks came to be identified with St. Patrick, as well as Ireland.
St. Patrick also used other methods to spread Christianity to the Irish people. “St. Patrick used bonfires to celebrate religious events since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire” said historian Mr. James Joyce. He also brought written word to Ireland and promoted the study of legal texts and the Bible. His methods helped spread the Christianity very quickly.
St. Patrick died on March 17th, and thus his life is honored on this very day every year. Historically, St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated in America in 1737 in Massachusetts; the first legitimate parade was held in New York City in 1766. Currently 100 different cities celebrate St. Patrick’s Day annually with parades and public festivities.
With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, students don’t have to wait much longer to unearth their green clothing and shamrock adorned clothes. “I’m so excited to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and wear my green!” says junior Althea Perley. Until then, think Leprechauns, bag pipes, corned beef and cabbage!