The Luck of the Irish!

Learn the history and lore surrounding this festive Irish holiday.

By FamilyTime

 St. Patrick's Day has largely become a secular holiday, although it is held to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. On this day, people of Irish ancestry - and even those without a drop of Irish blood!-wear green to mark the day.

The Story of St. Patrick
St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the A.D. 400's, although he was born in Roman Britain and trained as a priest in France. His connection to Ireland was made during his teens and early 20s when he lived there and worked as a shepherd.

The story is that at the age of 16, young Patrick, who at that time was called Maewyn, was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. During the next six years, he had religious visions. When he finally escaped slavery and fled to France, he turned to the priesthood.

Patrick returned to Ireland as a priest and traveled from town to town, converting the pagans to Christianity and establishing schools and churches. He was ordained bishop of Ireland in 431.

Legend has it that he drove the snakes from that island nation. Most likely, this is a metaphor for driving paganism from Ireland - snakes were never indigenous to Ireland.

St. Patrick died in 461 on March 17. From that time, this day has been celebrated in his honor. He was buried in Downpatrick in Ireland, and by the 12th century, St. Patrick's Cathedral was erected in Dublin, the capitol of Ireland.

Irish Customs and Lore
Those who celebrate St. Patrick's Day wear green on March 17. It signifies springtime and the greenery of Ireland.

Today in the United States, St. Patrick's Day has a secular tone, with more than 100 American cities holding parades and many families and Irish groups planning parties. Everyone is welcome on St. Paddy's Day, and everyone is "Irish!"

Traditional Irish foods such as corned beef and cabbage, soda bread, and scones are consumed on this day. These are simple foods that taste good all year long.

Many celebrants sport shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day. Shamrock is the Irish name for three- or four-leaf clovers. St. Patrick supposedly used the three-leaf clover to demonstrate the concept of the Holy Trinity in Christianity. A four-leaf clover, which is relatively rare, is considered good luck.

Leprechauns are legendary Irish fairies. They have no direct connection with St. Patrick, but they are such a part of Irish folklore that they fit naturally into St. Paddy Day celebrations.

These small men, dressed as old-fashioned cobblers, are said to spend their time making shoes. Leprechaun hunters "find" them by following the sound of their cobbler hammers. Why find a leprechaun, which are known to be reclusive and testy? Because they hoard pots of gold - or so the story goes!

St. Patrick's Day is a time for fun and celebration -- a day to revel in Irish good luck and Irish lore. As the Irish say on this day and all year long: "Erin Go Braugh!" which translates to "Ireland forever!"

Happy St. Patrick's Day.