St. Patrick's Day
May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rain fall soft upon your fields... - Traditional Irish Blessing
Cead Mile Fáiltiú! (that's "one thousand welcomes" in Gaelic) St. Patrick's Day is the day of shamrocks, leprechauns and Saint Patrick, the missionary who converted the Irish to Christianity in the 400's A.D. But, did you know that Saint Patrick was not actually Irish, he started out as a slave and his real name wasn't Patrick? Do you know the significance of the shamrock? As usual, there is a lot more to this holiday than is commonly known.
St. Patrick was born either in Scotland or Britain and it is believed his name was Maewyn Succat. At the age of 16, Maewyn was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. While he was a slave, he began to have intense religious visions and found that his faith gave him great strength to endure slavery. After six years, he fled his captors after the voices in his visions told him how to escape and where to find a departing ship 200 miles away. St. Patrick went to France, became a priest (later a bishop) and took the name Patrick, or Patricus.
When St. Patrick was about 60 years old, he returned to Ireland as a missionary. He used his innate charisma and the Irish three-leafed clover (the shamrock) as a metaphor for the Trinity (Christianity's father, son and holy spirit) to win many Irish converts. Legend also has it that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but there is no evidence of that part of the story. However, the snake was an important pagan symbol and it may have been that the story really alluded to the fact that St. Patrick helped drive paganism out of Ireland. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 A.D.
Today, St. Patrick's Day is the day to wear green, kiss the blarney stone and celebrate being Irish (or being Irish for the day). The colour green is associated with this holiday because it is the colour of shamrocks and the green fields of Ireland.