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The Life and Death of St. Patrick

St. Patrick was born in Wales around 385 AD with the given name of Maewyn and grew up within a village on the isle to rich parents. Historians are unsure of how religious he may have been, but there seems to be evidence that his father was a deacon for a Catholic church or monastery. At about the age of sixteen, his village (was pillaged by Irish raiders and he was sold into slavery.  He worked for an Irish Chieftain in Ulster. It was as a slave that he first learned of Gods love and wanted to be closer to him, so when he escaped after six years of captivity, he first went to study in a monetary off the coast of France called Lerins, then went to study at the Auxerre monastery in Gaul under the tutelage of Bishop St. Germain (Germanus).  It was during this time that he took on the Christian name of Patrick.


He wished to go back to Ireland to convert the pagans to Christianity and believed that to be gods will.  After a few years he was sent to Ireland for that reason, and eventually retained the office of Bishop.  He converted many bishops to the dismay of the local non-Christian tribes, such as the Celtic Druids.  In fact he was arrested several times for his action, but escaped every time.  He organized Christian schools and started monasteries throughout Ireland. 


He wrote two essays during his lifetime, the Confessio (a spiritual autobiography) and Epistola (a recitation of the poor treatment of Christians in Ireland by the British Government). It is from these works, that we get most of our information about St. Patrick and his life.


When he retired, he moved to Country Down and passed away on March 17, 461. There are two theories as to the place of death, Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland and Glastonbury, England, neither of which can be confirmed. His life has been celebrated every year since on the date of his death.


The Catholic Church ordained Patrick as a Saint - the Patron Saint of Ireland.


St. Patrick's Day Celebration History

St. Patrick’s followers began to celebrate the life of this great man each year on the date of his death by holding a feast and this tradition has continued each year.  Followers would stitch shamrocks onto their clothing for the feast days as well.  The tradition of celebrating St. Patrick spread throughout Ireland over the years.  The celebration also had a second theme, one of blessing missionaries around the world.


As the Irish began to immigrate into other parts of the world, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries, they took their traditions and customs with them.  Although they would meet other Christians around the world, the observance of St. Patrick's Day was something in common the Irish Catholics could celebrate to bring them together.


The first St. Patrick’s celebration in the United States was held in a Church in Boston in 1737 by very early Irish settlers.  The first Easter parade was held in the New York City in the United States in 1762 (March 17th) by Irish men enlisted in the British Army.  Smaller parades became annual events in many Irish communities.  In 1848, the New York Irish Aid Society consolidated many of the smaller parades in New York State into one combined grand parade each year in New York City.  It is the oldest ongoing civilian parade in the world with tens of thousands of participants and millions of spectators each year.


Other large cities have their own parades each year as well, although none as large as this.  However, Chicago has its own unique way of celebrating this holiday, since 1962, it turns the Chicago River the color green (the green dye used has a second purpose, it is also used to track illegal sewage).


The holiday is celebrated worldwide by people of all faiths as a day of celebration, usually spent with good friends with lots of food and alcohol.  However, it is interesting to note that in Ireland it is still mostly a religious holiday and until the 1970's bars and taverns were closed on St. Patrick's day.  Ironically, the Irish government has recently been using this holiday as a ploy to increase tourism during this time of year.


Folklore and Myths of St. Patrick

There are many legends about Saint Patrick beyond what we know for fact above. Some of the stories include:

  • Drove all the snakes from Ireland

    • There has never been evidence that snakes ever existed naturally in Ireland

    • This may be symbolic of driving out pagan believes from Ireland, since many older non-Christian religions used serpentine symbols in their rituals and beliefs

  • Used a Shamrock to convert pagans to Christianity (there is some truth to this, read below)

  • Raising people from the dead

How the Shamrock became a part of St. Patrick's Day and Irish Tradition

It is believed that St. Patrick used a Shamrock (three leaf clover), which is found in the fields of Ireland, to explain the holy Trinity.  There are three leaves which are all part of the whole, just like the father, son and the holy spirit. The Shamrock was called the seamroy by the native Celtics.  The symbol of the Shamrock also became a symbol of unity by the Irish against the British who wanted to take over all of their lands, destroy their culture and put an end to their language. The shamrock has become a part of the symbol of Great Britain and on Saint Patrick's day, a member of the British Royal Family gives shamrocks to the Irish members of the Royal Gaurd.


Irish Music

Traditional Irish music almost was put out of existence. When the British took over Ireland, they forbid anything to do with old Irish culture, language and tradition.  The only way to hold on to the old ways was through music. In music the traditions and stories lived on.  However, even music was not safe and there was even a decree placed by Queen Elizabeth I to hand all artists and pipers during her rein.


Corned Beef and Cabbage, an Irish Feast

Traditional food at Irish celebrations included Irish Bacon and Cabbage, however, many poor immigrants who came to the U.S. did not have money to buy bacon, so they substituted the less expensive Corned Beef for their fanfare (the idea probably came from their immigrant Jewish neighbors).


The History and Orign of Leprechauns

Leprachauns have appeared in Irish and Celtic folk tales for hundreds of years. They were usually portrayed as tiny men with magical powers who were cranky and were known for using trickery to protect their gold. They often held minor roles in most tales. Leprechauns are called lobaircin in Gaelic and is interpreted as "small bodied fellow."  One of the legends is that if you catch a leprechaun, you can make him tell you where he hid his treasure - usually a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.


The modern portrayal of leprechauns comes from Hollywood in Disney's movie entitled Darby O'Gill & the Little People (1959) where a young Sean Connery becomes caretaker of an estate where he comes face to face with the ever playful and cheerful Leprechaun king.


Blarney Stone

There really is a blarney stone. It is one of the stones that are a part of the wall of the Blarney Castle tower (located in the town of Blarney, Ireland). There is a story told that a sorceress cast a magic spell upon this stone to reward a King for saving her from drowning when he only thought her to be just a simple old woman. The legend states that anyone who kisses this stone will have the gift of persuasion, especially to the opposite sex.


The Color Green

Although Kermit the Frog may sing about being green, green is not a color associated with the Irish or St. Patrick's day outside of the United States.  The color may be associated with the old Irish flag, which was green, but brings back days of oppression to native Irishmen and women. In the United States, a custom has arisen amongst school aged children to pinch anyone who does not wear green on St. Patrick's Day.



The day is celebrated with friends and family with good food and drink.  However, many Americans have become to associate the holiday solely with a reason to drink.

Gifts are traditionally not exchanged, but you might be invited to a Saint Patrick's Day celebration.  If so, you should bring drink or food.  It has also become traditional to wear green and a shamrock.

 St. Patrick's Day Gift Ideas:

  • Food (Corned Beef & Cabbage)

  • Gift Basket

  • Wine or other Alcohol

  • St. Patrick's Day keepsakes & curios

  • Irish heritage items for the person or home

Shop for Personalized St. Patrick’s Day Gifts at


Saint Patrick's Day Facts and History

Saint Patrick's Day Recipes

Saint Patrick's Day Customs and Traditions

Saint Patrick's Day Activities, Fun and Crafts

Saint Patrick's Day Multimedia (wallpaper, backgrounds, screen savers, etc.)


Flowers and Gift Baskets for St. Patrick's Day

Rose Sale Banner (125x125) - static

Alcohol and Spirits as St. Patrick's Day Gifts

5000 WINES -wineshop- 234 x 60
Alcohol Related

"Irish To The Last Drop" Beer Stein (Personalized) icon


"Irish Pub" Bar Coasters icon


"Old Irish Pub" Sign icon

Apparel (Clothing) as St. Patrick's Day Gifts

"Irish Royalty" Infant & Youth Apparel (Personalized) icon


"Irish Pride" Youth & Adult Apparel (Personalized) icon


"My Irish Clan" Apparel, Mug & Nightshirt (Personalized) icon


"Kiss Me I'm Irish" Adult Apparel icon


"Luck of the Irish" Baseball Cap (Personalized) icon

Miscellaneous St. Patrick's Day Gifts

Waterford King of Ireland 10" Vase


"Celtic" Coaster Set (Set of 4) (Personalized) icon


"Shamrock Welcome" Slate Plaque (Personalized) icon


"Irish Blessing" Custom Wood Frame (Personalized) icon


"Irish Blessing" Keepsake Sculpture (Personalized) icon


"Irish Eyes Are Smiling" Custom Frame icon


"An Irish Blessing" Sundial (Personalized) icon


"Irish Blessing" Outdoor Wall Thermometer icon


 "Claddagh" Address Plaque (Personalized) icon

Pope John Paul II Commemorative Coins

Books about St. Patrick's Day, Ireland and Irish Heritage

iconicon Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs icon iconicon

St. Patrick's Day icon

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Last modified: March 20, 2012

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