JAN 22, 2014

The Facts, Myths and Traditions of St. Patrick’s Day

On March 13th millions of Irish folk around the globe will don their green waistcoats and top hats, take a pint of dark (or occasionally green Guinness) and take to the streets in celebration of their patron saint.

In the midst of all the revelry many aren’t truly aware of the true history and significance of the day itself. Who was the man behind the myth? What’s fact and what’s fiction? Here’s a look at some little known facts that you may or may not know about St. Patricks Day.

The Man behind the Myth

The modern celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has very little to do with the man himself. The exact place and date of date of St. Patrick is unknown. What we do know is that he was born a Christian to a wealthy aristocratic Christian family. In his youth St. Patrick displayed little interest in the Christian faith, however this was all too change when he reached the latter part of his teens.

Aged sixteen Patrick was kidnapped and driven into slavery overseas. Tending sheep in the chilly mountainous countryside of Ireland, had endured seven years of hard labour. As difficult as this would have been for St. Patrick out of it all, faith emerged. St. Patrick became a Christian.

St. Patrick’s Day and the Shamrock

St. Patrick’s Day lore outlines that Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Continuing tradition, St. Patrick’s Day revellers wear the shamrock as a matter of national pride.

The custom of wearing a shamrock dates back to the 17th Century.  A history that has endured a hundred or so years, despite this botanists agree that there is nothing uniquely Irish about shamrocks. It appears to be an adopted Irish emblem.

Are there really snakes in Ireland?

One of the more prevalent Irish myths is that St. Patrick banished snakes from Ireland. Today, snakes aren’t indigenous to Ireland. Maybe just maybe, there is some credibility to the myth. Across all literature snakes represent evil in literature.  Symbolically St. Patrick banished evil from Ireland, ridding the country of the archaic ways and ushering in a new Christian Age. Then again, Ireland is surrounded by water, water too cold to allow snakes to migrate anywhere else. Was Ireland ever populated with snakes?

St. Patrick’s Day is shrouded in myth and legend. Whether every story is based in reality remains to be seen, and in some ways really isn’t really the point. Across the world the Irish celebrate their patron saint, St. Patrick and at the end of the day who doesn’t enjoy a good old knees up?



Created on 22nd January 2014
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