Who Was St. Patrick Anyway?
Patrick was born to wealthy parents in Britain around the end of the 4th century. Most scholars believed he may have died on March 17th, (460 A.D.).
His father was a Christian deacon. At 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family's estate. He spent 6 years in captivity, working as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people in Ireland. It was during this time of loneliness and uncertainty that he turned to his faith for solace and became a devout Christian.
He finally escaped from prison after another 6 years. According to his writing, he believed God told him in a dream that it was time to leave Ireland. Back in Britain, Patrick experienced a second revelation in a dream in which an angel told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick trained over the next 15 years in the ministry. He was ordained as a priest and sent to Ireland.
Since he was familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick used traditional rituals when teaching Christianity rather than attempting to destroy the Irish pagan beliefs. For example, to celebrate Easter, he used bonfires since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He included a sun on the Christian cross to create what is now widely known as a Celtic cross. These tactics helped to make things seem more natural to the Irish.
Celebrating in America
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in America, not Ireland. Irish soldiers in the English Army marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. The parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots and introduced their music to other colonists.
Even today, many Irish descendants gather to share a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage. People are supposed to wear green and if they aren't, they might get pinched.
Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain how the Trinity represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. This custom came to America in 1737 in Boston.
So have a great St. Patrick's Day and be sure to wear your green!