St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Maewyn's Day?

A St. Patrick's history primer

St. Patrick's Day, March 17, is the feast day of Ireland's patron saint.

As with all things Irish there's the truth of St. Patrick and the embellished truth. We leave it to you to find the blarney.


According to historians, St. Patrick was born not in Ireland, but in Britain in 389 A.D. His given name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat. (Good thing he changed his name. St. Maewyn's Day just doesn't have the same ring.)


When he was 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery. For six years he was forced to work as a shepherd in Ireland. (Wonder if he got to wear one of those cool Irish-knit sweaters?). After a vision came to him directing him to a ship, Patrick escaped to France, where he became a priest.

When he was in his 60s -- the time when most saints are retiring to work on their beatification papers -- another divine vision brought St. Patrick back to Ireland as a missionary. He is credited with converting the Irish to Christianity using Ireland's national symbol, the three-leafed shamrock, to teach the concept of the Holy Trinity. (Good thing he wasn't working with a four-leaf clover.)

Legend tells us St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, but biologists tell us there weren't any snakes in Ireland to drive out. He is also said to have exiled a dragon to a lake in Ireland until Judgment Day, though no one knows which lake the monster is in.

In Ireland, March 17, believed to be either the Patrick's birthday or his death day, is a time to celebrate the life of the beloved patron saint.

In the United States, St. Paddy's Day has little religious or historical significance. Established in Boston in 1737, it is essentially a time to put on a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" button, and parade drunken through the streets singing a mangled version of "Danny Boy" in celebration of one's real or imagined Irish ancestry.

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