Creative Child

Who is St. Patrick? The History of St. Patrick’s Day

by Rebecca Eanes

Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world, but beyond the shamrocks and wearing of green, what does the day mean? And who exactly is St. Patrick anyway? The modern celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has very little to do with St. Patrick. Surrounding the patron saint of Ireland are several myths, including the famous account that he drove snakes from Ireland and that he used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. While it’s true that Ireland is snake-free today, there is no evidence that they were driven out by St. Patrick. It’s likely that snakes never made it to Ireland to begin with. As for shamrocks, there is no historical evidence that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol to demonstrate Christianity, as lore suggests.


While St. Patrick’s Day today is dripping in green, blue was the original color of the Order of St. Patrick. Early depictions of St. Patrick show him wearing blue, not green. Wearing green can be traced back to political revolutions in the 1600s or, interestingly, there are tales of Irish-Americans wearing green to “make them invisible to leprechauns” in the 1700s, but neither explanation has anything to do with St. Patrick.


So, what’s the real story? St. Patrick is not Irish. He was born in Britain near the end of the fourth century, according to At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by Irish raiders, and he spent 6 years in captivity in Ireland. While captive, he turned to his religion for solace, as reported by, and became a devout Christian.


According to Patrick’s writing, he was told in a dream by a voice he believed to be God’s telling him it was time to leave Ireland. He escaped, reportedly walking 200 miles to the Irish coast. Once back in Britain, he reported having a second dream in which an angel told him to go back to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick studied religion for more than 15 years and, upon becoming an ordained priest, returned to Ireland to both minister to Christians there and to spread Christianity in a largely pagan culture. Contradictory to popular notion, he was not the first person to bring Christianity to Ireland. He was, however, very successful at growing Christianity in Ireland.

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