March 17 is surrounded by rainbows, the color green, shamrocks, pots of gold, and, of course, leprechauns. The holiday to honor St. Patrick has become more of a nod to Irish culture than recognizing the patron saint of Ireland. In fact, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish.
Born in a wealthy British family, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of 16. After six years as a prisoner in Ireland working as a shepherd and finding solace in his Christian beliefs, Patrick believed he heard the voice of God telling him it was time for him to leave Ireland. After an arduous journey to return to Britain, Patrick was again approached by an angel who told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. After 15 years of religious study to become an ordained priest, Patrick returned to the land that had imprisoned him in his youth on a mission.
A largely pagan culture in the fifth century, the Irish already had their own beliefs and ways of worship. Patrick respected their beliefs and incorporated Christian beliefs into Ireland’s ways. Patrick spent the rest of his life converting Ireland to Christianity and, after his death, was made a saint.
Many legends surround St. Patrick due to the age of the tale as well as the Irish love of folklore. For instance, legend says that St. Patrick used a shamrock to effectively represent the Trinity to the Pagan Irish. St. Patrick’s Day may have lost its true meaning, but the holiday is a fun-filled day of parades and good spirits.