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St. Patrick's Day History

St. Patrick is believed to have driven the snakes from Ireland. Once a pagan himself, St. Patrick is one of Christianity's most widely known figures.
  St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, who ironically wasn't even Irish. Patrick was the son of a wealthy British family and lived during the later part of the 4th century A.D. When he was sixteen years old, a group of Irish raiders kidnapped him and took him to Ireland. He was forced into slave labor for six years and he worked as a shepherd during this time. While Patrick was in the fields, he began to seek God and became a Christian. He spent many lonely hours and grew in his faith. Some believe it was during this time that he began to dream about spreading Christianity throughout Ireland. In one of his dreams, Patrick heard a voice he believed to be God that told him he needed to leave Ireland. He managed to escape to England.

While in England, he had another dream in which he saw an angel who told him it was time to return to Ireland, but this time as a missionary, instead of a prisoner. He didn't leave right away, however. He took time to study for fifteen years, spending some of that time in France, became a priest and then left for Ireland. He began to spread Christianity as well as encourage the Christians who were already living there.

Over the centuries, Patrick's reputation and legend grew. The story of Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland is one of many exaggerated tales. Since Ireland never had any snakes, many historians believe that it is symbolic of Patrick driving out the old pagan traditions as he brought Christianity to the people.

The Irish celebrate the anniversary of his death, March 17th, and have been joined by people around the world. Originally, people would go to church that morning and have a feast of traditional Irish food and drink in the afternoon. Since it falls during Lent, the church would allow an exception to the fasting tradition of not eating meat during Lent.

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with parades and parties and the "wearin' of the green". The first St. Patrick's Day parade was actually held in the United States in 1762 in New York City. There were Irish soldiers in the British army and they decided to celebrate their heritage with the parade. They played Irish music and bonded with their fellow Irishmen.

Its popularity is world wide, with celebrations being held in many other countries around the world including Japan, Russia, Canada and Australia. In Ireland, it is still considered a religious feast day, in honor of their patron saint, Patrick, and all he did for their country.


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