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St. Patrick's Day History and Traditions

Updated on March 16, 2011

Who Was Saint Patrick?

The patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, was born in 387. There is some dspute as to where exactly he was born. Some sources claim his birthplace was in Kilpatrick, Scotland and others insist it was in Wales. His Roman father, Calphurnius, was a Gaul senator. His mother, Conchessa, was a relative of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of Gaul. Conchessa’s father sold her as a slave to Calphurnius. The two fell in love, ending Conchessa’s slavery. However, slavery in the family was to continue.

At sixteen, the boy-who-would-be a saint was kidnapped and sold as a slave to an Irish Druid High Priest, Milchu. The boy was an enslaved shepherd for Milchu for the next six years. During this time, he found solace in praying to God. He also studied Celtic language and Druidism. With this learned knowledge, he made it his mission to convert Irish pagans. St. Patrick claimed that one night God came to him in a dream and instructed him to escape to the coast where he could climb aboard a ship set for Britain. St. Patrick obeyed his dream, thinking it a directive from God. He successfully escaped his slave owner and found a ship at the coast. He jumped aboard and safely made it to Britain where he promptly began his pathway to priesthood. When he was ordained a Bishop, he returned to Ireland to convert more Druids to Christianity. He died in Downpatrick, Ireland in 493.


St. Patrick's Day Customs

St. Patrick’s Day is known widely for its many customs. Here are a few popular ones.

Green – Ireland is known as “The Emerald Isle”, shamrocks are green, green is in the flag of Ireland, green is recognized as the color of spring.

Shamrocks – It is believed that St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover (or shamrock) to illustrate the Holy Trinity to potential followers (God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

Leprechauns – Irish folklore created by Pagans; believed to be largely popular in Ireland before the bloom of Christianity. Roughly translates to “little body”. Fairies intent on accumulating and protecting their gold

Kiss Me, I’m Irish – It is a saying that if you kiss someone Irish, you will have luck. Possibly derived from the folklore of the leprechaun, and from kissing the Blarney Stone. (The Blarney Stone is a stone that was built into the tower of Ireland’s Blarney Castle. It is legend that one of the castle builders ran into legal trouble. He asked the goddess, Cliodhna, for help. She told him if he kissed a stone on his way to court, he’d win the case. He did as she instructed and won the case. He then promptly pluck that stone and added it to the Blarney Castle’s tower. Hence, the legend of kissing the Blarney Stone for the luck of a swift tongue was born!)

Darby O'Gill and the Little People
Darby O'Gill and the Little People

How To Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Even if you’re not Irish, you can partake in St. Patrick’s Day festivities! Although many celebrators make their claim that it is the patron day for publicly-accepted drunkenness, there are many sober activities the rest of us can enjoy.

Watch A Parade! – Check your local listings for any Leprechaun-marching parades in your area. There is sure to be a sea of green dancing along the parade route, as well in the crowd.

Fancy A Pub! – Grab a pint of green ale or munch on some pub food while listening to a rousing Irish band.

Try An Irish Jig! – Watch or join in with Irish Step dancers in your area. There’s sure to be a more than a few skirt twirlin’ step-dancin’ preformances in your area.

Watch An Irish Movie! – If you’re staying in on St. Patrick’s Day, no problem! Kick off the day with an Irish film marathon. Whether it be a production filmed in Ireland or one based in Ireland (i.e. American and English actors portraying the Irish), there are many delightful choices. If you’re looking for a family film, try Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Or, if you’re a young lady looking for a coming-of-age film, try Circle of Friends. Or, if you’re itching for Irish lads on a vengeful journey through the mean streets of Boston, try The Boondock Saints.

Listen To An Irish Melody! – There is a myriad of Irish music to be found. There are folk songs, instrumental pieces, and heavy metal and punk pieces among the music genres. Irish music can be spiritual and uplifting. Peruse your local library or music store if you don’t own any Irish music. Or, try and type in “Irish song” if you have no idea where to begin your journey.

Celebrate, Irish or not!

10 Irish Baby Names and Their Meanings

Ailise: Noble

Cassian: Curly hair

Daegan: Black-haired

Glenna: Secluded valley

Lochlain: Home of the Norse

Odhran: Pale green

Phelan: Wolf

Quillan: Cub

Rian: Little king

Una: United

James IV of Scotland
James IV of Scotland

March 17th Celebrity Babies

Billy Corgan, singer (Smashing Pumpkins), born 1967

Caroline Corr, singer (The Corrs), born 1973

Don Griffin, Cleveland Browns (Cornerback), born 1964

James IV, King of Scotland from 1488-1513, born 1473

Jean Ingelow, English poet (“High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire”), born 1820

Nat King Cole, singer (“Unforgettable”), born 1919

Rob Lowe, actor (“St. Elmo’s Fire”), born 1964

Kurt Russell, actor (“Used Cars”), born 1951

Gary Sinise, actor (“Forrest Gump”), born 1955

Get Green!

St. Patrick’s Day is always March 17. The day is celebrated in many local hot spots. These are just a sampling of what your March 17th could be like. Check your local listings for any community events that may be happening in your area. An’ may the luck o’the Irish be with ye! --Granted, not a true Irish blessing as I am not Irish, but I do plan on wearing green on St. Paddy's Day!


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    • profile image

      Red 6 years ago

      St. Patrick died at age 106?!

    • Mary Contrary profile image

      Mary Contrary 7 years ago from Columbus, OH

      Excellant information-Congrats on all the research. what's a boondock saint

    • celeBritys4africA profile image

      celeBritys4africA 7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I always wanted to read St Patrick's history.

    • Rosefall profile image

      Rosefall 7 years ago from Ohio!

      My husband LOVES "The Boondock Saints", so I had to include it here. ;-) I added "Darby O'Gill" for myself.

    • GetSmart profile image

      GetSmart 7 years ago

      I think I'll have to dig up my copy of the The Boondock Saints to enjoy with my green ale this year. I enjoyed your hub!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm not Irish, but I will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day on March 17th. I like your ideas for ways to celebrate the festival! The information about Saint Patrick was interesting as well.

    • kephrira profile image

      kephrira 7 years ago from Birmingham

      Wow, I had no idea you could celebrate St Patricks day without being given a silly hat for buying 5 pints of Guiness.