History of Saint Patrick’s Day

Eric Jeffries, Student Writer

Everyone is proud of their heritage. We all know where our ancestors came from and will tell others about our family origins without hesitation. On March 17th however, there are only two types of people: those who are Irish and those who wish they were.  Saint Patrick’s Day is an annual celebration that is held closely to the hearts of Irish people all over the world. What started out as a religious feast day commemorating the patron saint of the Emerald Isle, is now a global holiday celebrated with sneaky leprechauns, pots of gold, green clothing, and massive parades.

A recently conducted survey shows that roughly 42% of the students in the eleventh grade here at GNA share Irish blood. This is bizarre because the majority of them probably are not very familiar with the history of their culture’s beloved holiday. Saint Patrick, born in 381 ACE, had a peaceful childhood in his homeland of England until disaster struck his home in the form of Irish pirates when the saint-to-be was about 14 years of age. He was captured and brought back to Ireland where he was made a shepherd for a large portion of his young adult life. Then, it is said that in a dream he heard his calling to join the clergy. Saint Patrick journeyed back to his homeland where he studied to become a bishop.

After his training was complete in 433 ACE,  Pope Celestine I sent Saint Patrick sailing back to Ireland to evangelize the pagan country. Since he was so familiar with the culture, Saint Patrick was the perfect missionary. During his teachings, the legends of his tremendous success were born. The saint used a shamrock to teach the Irish about the Catholic faith’s Holy Trinity. It is said that he drove all the snakes, which were important symbols in the Celtic religion, out of Ireland and into the ocean where they drowned. While it is a nice story, facts show us that cold blooded snakes never had the chance to slither into Ireland in the first place. For millions of years, the island has always been surrounded by roaring waters or bitterly cold ice. This tale has the underlying idea that Saint Patrick cleansed the Emerald Isle of it’s pagan past. After many years of preaching, traveling and living in poverty, Saint Patrick passed away on March 17th, 461 ACE.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in countries all over the globe from Tokyo, Japan to Toronto, Canada. A celebration of this fashion is not complete without a parade loaded with roaring marching bands, immense colorful floats, and hordes of jubilant onlookers. Most celebrations of the Emerald Isle are similar, but some have unique qualities that make them burst with individuality. The windy city of Chicago has a colorful tradition of dying the Chicago River bright green to bring its inhabitants into a festive Saint Patrick’s Day mood. Scranton, PA holds the second largest parade in the nation. With an opportunity to attend an immensely spirited affair such as this right here in our back yard, it is absurd to not celebrate the day of the Irish.

Whether you are in New York enjoying the world’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the company of millions or in your car, enjoying a refreshing shamrock shake, you can’t deny that each shindig shares a common element that fills the hearts of its participants with the luck of the Irish every year.