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Saint Patrick's Day Lore

by Mary Laffey on 2024-03-13T13:58:36-05:00 | 0 Comments

Growing up Irish Catholic, my experience with Saint Patrick’s Day is different from most Americans. While many people in the United States view the holiday as an excuse to dress up in crazy green clothing and enjoy a few (or more) drinks, my family’s celebrations centered around gratefulness, pride in our lineage and our culture, and listening to my grandma tell tales of Saint Patrick. My grandmother loved the symbolism of the shamrock almost as much as how Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. As I got older, I started to wonder how these legends came about, and how much truth was in them.

Weirdly enough, Saint Patrick was actually born in Britain, to a Roman family who occupied the area and was kidnapped by Irish tribal raiders when he was still a teenager. The raiders brought him to their homeland and enslaved him for six years until he was finally able to escape, making his return to Britain to study Christianity. After many years of study, Saint Patrick felt it was his calling to return to Ireland, despite his previous enslavement, to spread Christianity among the pagan tribes. His mission was largely successful, as he understood, and wisely preserved, the social structure of the country by converting the people tribe by tribe. According to some legends, he used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, a legend which became an iconic symbol for Ireland. Some articles also mention how Saint Patrick allegedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland, likely a metaphor for banishing “demonic” pagan beliefs in place of Christianity among the Irish people. Strange as the legend may be, by the time he died, Saint Patrick had successfully denounced harmful slavery practices, unjust taxations on the poor, and Ireland as a country was almost entirely Christian.

Saint Patrick’s Day is slightly less frenzied when celebrated in Ireland in comparison to the United States, since instead of massive parades and rowdy parties, most people attend Mass, wear shamrocks on their clothes, and spread the blessings of Saint Patrick with one another. Because Saint Patrick’s Day occurs during Lent, the holiday is often seen as a reprieve from the deprivations of the period preceding Easter.

If you want to learn more about Irish culture and history, check out some of these resources below:

The Saint Patrick Myth

Saint Patrick Retold: The Legend and History of Ireland’s Patron Saint

Consuming St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day – Reference

The Troubles in Ireland – Reference

All information derived from Credo Reference Source.

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