Statue of Saint Patrick

Statue of Saint Patrick

By Felicia Farnsworth

March 17 is known world-wide as Saint Patrick’s Day and is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. It is recognized as a national holiday and celebrated in countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, Ireland (of course), and the USA, plus many more.

Celebrations consist of parades, festivals, and the wearing of the color green or shamrocks. In 2010 the Skye Tower in Auckland lit up green as part of Tourism Ireland’s “Going Green for Saint Patrick’s Day.”

Now, eleven years later, over 300 landmarks in fifty countries, including the Sydney Opera House, light up green on Saint Patrick’s Day in participation.

Saint Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. At age 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. There he spent six years working as a shepherd.

It was during this time he found God. He was able to escape to the coast, where a ship took him home. It was after he returned home that he became a priest.

Patrick returned to Ireland and converted thousands of the pagan Irish to Christianity. Legend has it that Saint Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans. His efforts to drive out the druids eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove “snakes'' out of Ireland, even though snakes have never inhabited the region.

Saint Patrick’s Day, a celebration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and a commemoration for Saint Patrick, was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century. It is traditionally held on the date of his death, March 17 (c.385-c.461).

Historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption.

In celebration of the day, the Taoiseach (tei-shuh; Irish Prime Minister) has presented the U.S. President with a Waterford Crystal Bowl filled with shamrocks. This tradition dates back to 1952 when President Harry S. Truman received a box of shamrocks from the Irish Ambassador to the U.S. John Hearde.

This annual tradition was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will most likely be postponed again in 2021.

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