One thing I don’t understand is how a day that recognizes a noble, Christian man’s life can be turned around to make the focus be on so many other not-so-noble things. But I guess all those other things are from the “world” not from God. Knowing the real background of St. Patrick’s Day, I can now say with confidence, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”
Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a yearly holiday celebrated on 17 March. It is named after Saint Patrick (circa AD 387–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. It began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s. However, it has gradually become more of a secular celebration of Ireland’s culture.
It is a public holiday on the island of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) and widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora in places such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and Montserrat.
Little is known of Patrick’s early life, though it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the fifth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father and grandfather were deacons in the Church. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession (one of his writings), he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.
In 432, he again says that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to save the Irish, and indeed he was successful at this, focusing on converting royalty and aristocracy as well as the poor. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of teaching and spreading God’s Word he died on 17 March, 461 AD, and was buried at Downpatrick, so tradition says. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish Church.
Wearing of green
According to legend, Saint Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish people.Originally the colour associated with Saint Patrick was blue. However, over the years the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick’s day grew. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick’s Day as early as the 17th century. He is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day. Then in the 1798 rebellion in hopes of making a political statement Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on 17 March in hopes of catching attention with their unusual fashion gimmick. The phrase “the wearing of the green”, meaning to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing, derives from the song of the same name.
History in Ireland
It is believed that Saint Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland since before the 1600s. It was also believed to have served as a one-day break during Lent, the forty day period of fasting. This would involve drinking alcohol; something which became a tradition. Saint Patrick’s feast day was finally placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church due to the influence of the Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding in the early 1600s. Saint Patrick’s Day thus became a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland. The church calendar avoids the observance of saints’ feasts during certain solemnities, moving the saint’s day to a time outside those periods. Saint Patrick’s Day is very occasionally affected by this requirement – when 17 March falls during Holy Week. This happened in 1940 when Saint Patrick’s Day was observed on 3 April in order to avoid it coinciding with Palm Sunday, and again in 2008, having been observed on 15 March. Saint Patrick’s Day will not fall within Holy Week again until 2160.
Although secular celebrations now exist, the holiday remains a religious observance in Ireland, for both the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland.
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