Patron Saint of Ireland
The Irish are descendants of the ancient Celts, but the Vikings,
Normans and English contributed to the ethnic nature of the people.
Centuries of English rule largely eliminated the use of the ancient
Gaelic, or Irish, language.
Christianity in Ireland
According to traditional legend Christianity came to Ireland with
Joseph of Arimathea in the first century . He also supposedly
brought the cup used in the last supper (The Holy Grail) and buried
it in a Christian settlement he founded at Glastonbury.
There certainly seem to have been Christians in Ireland before
both Palladius and Patrick - Jerome in the early 5th century
records that 'the Irish peoples, and all the barbarian nations round
to the very ocean have come to know Moses and the prophets' whilst
around the same time Augustine wrote that God's word had even been
preached in "the islands set in the middle of the sea" and that they
were 'full of Christians'.
Today most Irish are either Catholics or Protestants (Anglicans,
members of the Church of England).
Customs and Traditions
The person who was to become St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, the
patron saint of Ireland, was born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton,
Kingdom of Strathclyde, about 9miles WNW of Glascow in Scotland
about AD 387. His given name was Maewyn.
Patrick refers to himself as Patricius in his writings - he might
have been baptised this -which is a Roman name although both of his
early biographers imply that he was given the name Succetus (the
latinised name of a Celtic war god) which seems unlikely and
inappropriate for a Christian. Other stories say he got the name
Patricius from the Pope when he was sent on his mission to Ireland.
His parents were Calphurnius and Conchessa. The former belonged to
a Roman family of high rank and held the office of decurio in Gaul
or Britain a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village
Bannavem Taburni‘. Conchessa was a near relative of the great
patron of Gaul, St. Martin of Tours. Kilpatrick still retains
many memorials of Saint Patrick, and frequent pilgrimages continued
far into the Middle Ages to perpetuate there the fame of his
sanctity and miracles. Far from being a saint, until he was 16,
he considered himself a pagan.
The Roman Empire Falls
The Roman Empire had started to collapse in the 4th century; around
the time of Patrick's birth. The Roman legions posted to Britian
were cut to provide more forces to defend Rome. The remaining
forces were not able to contain the marauding Hordes of raiders
from attacking villages and towns throughout Scotland, and England.
Calpornius had a country seat near near Kilpatrick, and there in
his sixteenth year, during one such raid, Patrick was taken
Patrick was carried off into captivity by Irish marauders and was
sold as a slave to a chieftan named Milchu in Dalriada, a territory
of the present county of Antrim in Ireland, where for six years he
tended his master's flocks in the valley of the Braid and on the
slopes of Slemish, near the modern town of Ballymena. During his
captivity, he became closer to God. He relates that during his
captivity while tending the flocks he prayed many times each day.
In the ways of a benign Providence the six years of Patrick's
captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate.
He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he
would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption, and, as
his master Milchu was a druidical high priest, he became familiar
with all the details of Druidism from whose bondage he was destined
to liberate the Irish race.
An angel came to him in a dream (vision) and told him a boat was
waiting for him, and so after six years he fled from his cruel
master and headed west. He had to travel about 200 miles towards
Killala Bay and then to Westport. He found a ship ready to set
sail but was refused passage. He went off and prayed. Soon a
sailor came for him and he was allowed on board. In a few days he
was among his friends once more in Britain, but now his heart was
set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred
He went to St. Martin's monastery at Tours, and again at the
island sanctuary of L‚rins which was just then acquiring
widespread renown for learning and piety; and wherever lessons
of heroic perfection in the exercise of Christian life could be
acquired, Patrick was sure to go there. No sooner had St.
Germain entered on his great mission at Auxerre than Patrick put
himself under his guidance for a period of twelve years. During
his training he became aware that his calling was to convert the
pagans of Ireland to Christianity. and it was at that great
bishop's hands that a few years later Patrick promoted to the
It is the tradition in the territory of the Morini that Patrick
under St. Germain's guidance for some years was engaged in
missionary work among them. When Germain commissioned by the
Holy See proceeded to Britain to combat the erroneous teachings
of Pelagius, he chose Patrick to be one of his missionary
companions and thus it was his privilege to be associated with
the representative of Rome in the triumphs that ensued over
heresy and Paganism, and in the many remarkable events of the
expedition, such as the miraculous calming of the tempest at sea,
the visit to the relics at St. Alban's shrine, and the Alleluia
Amid all these scenes, however, Patrick's thoughts turned towards
Ireland, and from time to time he was favoured with visions of
the children from Focluth, by the Western sea, who cried to him:
"O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more among us."
His wishes were to return to Ireland, to convert the native pagans
to Christianity. Some say he almost didn't get the job of bishop
of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship. Instead
his superiors appointed St. Palladius. But two years later,
Palladius (q.v.), terrified by the fierce opposition of a Wicklow
chieftain had abandoned the sacred enterprise, and transferred to
Pope St. Celestine I, who had already done much to spread the
learning of the church, crowned his pontificate by an act of the
most far-reaching consequences for the spread of Christianity and
civilization, when he entrusted St. Patrick with the mission of
gathering the Irish race into the one fold of Christ. Patrick,
having adopted that Christian name earlier, was then appointed as
second bishop to Ireland.
Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this fact
upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but
he escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing
monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches
which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to
St. Patrick at Slane Hill
On the evening before Easter, 433 AD, St. Patrick kindled a fire
on Slane Hill close to Tara in Co. Meath. It seems like a simple
and unobtrusive action to us now, but at the time it was equivalent
to declaring war: a war on the Druids and their pagan beliefs and
war against the King of Ireland. That small act of starting a fire
was a turning point in St. Patrick's life and it marked the
beginning of a new belief system for Ireland's native people.
In Ireland at the time, Christian Easter was not celebrated. Rather,
the Irish marked the Beltaine festival which celebrated the coming
of spring. During Beltaine, the Druids lit a great bonfire with the
understanding that no other fire should be lit in the vicinity. To
do so would be to challenge the authority of the Druids and, under
Brehon Law, that of the King. Those who dared violate the Beltaine
rules could be punished with death.
St. Patrick was obviously aware of what he was doing as he and his
small band of followers dressed in their finest vestments and lit
the small but defiant Paschal Fire. They then waited for the sure
response they were to receive, which apparently did not take very
long at all. A group of King Laoghaire's warriors arrived on the
scene and took the small band into custody. From the site of
their fire, they were 'escorted' to Tara, where they were to
answer for their crime. During the journey the Holy men recited a
prayer in protection, which is now known as the hymn of St.
Patrick's Breastplate or the Faed Fiada (Deer's Cry).
When the prisoners arrived at Tara, they were immediately placed
on trial. First, St. Patrick was forced to face the Druids, and
then he was placed in front of King Laoghaire to answer for his
alleged crimes. It is here that St. Patrick's renowned eloquence
came into play. With his knowledge of the language and customs
of the Irish he managed to gain pardon for the group. Some say
he did this with a clover, which he used to explain the Holy
Trinity to the King.
The clover was one of the most ancient symbols of Ireland and is
in the design of the passage tombs in the Valley of Tara. By
explaining the Trinity with a clover, he might have 'implied' a
greater knowledge of Irish Gods and the history of Ireland than
the Druids were able to muster.
Through his own audacity, St. Patrick attracted the attention and
respect of the Irish King and gained the freedom to preach
Christianity across the land. That one small act of igniting a
fire, proved pivotal in the history of Ireland and gives us a
deeper understanding of St. Patrick's Celtic name, Succat
(Clever in War).
His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time,
Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461
(died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 493). That day
has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since. This
anniversary is now celebrated annually by many, through parades
and various other activities.
Folklore surrounding St. Patrick's Day
Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much
of it is actually substantiated.
A traditional drink of whiskey. According to legend, Patrick was
shortchanged on a shot of whiskey and told the landlord of the
hostelry that the devil was in his cellar gorging himself on the
landlord's dishonesty. Terrified by this prospect, the landlord
vowed to change his ways and when Patrick returned to the tavern
some time later, he found that the landlord now filled everyone's
glass to overflowing!
Patrick then announced that the landlord's newfound generosity was
"starving the devil in his cellar," and proclaimed that thereafter
everyone should have a drop of the 'hard stuff' on his feast day:
Patrick's Pot. The tradition is also known as "drowning the
Shamrock" because of the custom of floating a shamrock in the
whiskey before swallowing it.
Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people
from the dead.
He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove
all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native
to Ireland, and some people think this is a metaphor for the
conversion of the pagans.
One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. And this
stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick
used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used
it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same
entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock
on his feast day.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast
day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The
Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday similar to
Christmas and Easter for about 1500 years. On St. Patrick's Day,
which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families
would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate
in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of
meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast on
the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
As the Irish spread out around the world, they took with them
their history and celebrations. The biggest observance of all is,
of course, in Ireland. With the exception of restaurants and pubs,
almost all businesses close on March 17th. Being a religious
holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where March 17th is the
traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries worldwide
before the serious celebrating begins.
Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has
evolved into more of a secular holiday.
The First Parade
The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That was
the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this
country, in Boston Massachusetts.
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but
in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English
military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along
with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with
their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the
English army. The military units continued to march each year until
after the War of 1812 when local Irish fraternal and beneficial
societies ( so-called "Irish Aid" societies, like the Friendly Sons
of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society) began sponsoring it.
In those days, the parade was quite small, marching from their
meeting halls to Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Lower Manhattan
on Mott & Prince Streets (which is still there!). The parades
featured bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the
Scottish and British armies) and drums.. By 1851, the groups had
banded together, nominating a Grand Marshall and increasing the
size of the parade. This was when the Irish 69th Regiment (now
the 165th Infantry) became the lead marchers and the Ancient Order
of Hibernians became the official sponsor.
In American cities with a large Irish population, St. Patrick's
Day is a very big deal. Big cities and small towns alike
celebrate with parades, "wearing of the green," music and songs,
Irish food and drink, and activities for kids such as crafts,
coloring and games. Some communities even go so far as to dye
rivers or streams green! The largest parade, held since 1762,
is in New York City, and draws more than one million spectators
each year. To this day, the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York
remains true to its roots by not allowing floats, automobiles and
other commercial aspects in. Marching is what you'll see. Great
bands, be they bagpipes or an entire orchestra, over 150,000 people
from all over the country and the world march each year.
No Irish Need Apply
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, most Irish immigrants in
America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the
Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor,
uneducated, Catholic Irish began to pour into America to escape
starvation. Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents
by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble
finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country 's
cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate their
heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent
However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers
endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited.
They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the
"green machine," became an important swing vote for political
hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show
of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event
for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Truman
attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment
for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and
racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.
Wearing of the Green Goes Global
Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds
in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America
is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been
celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan,
Singapore, and Russia.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a
religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws
mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995,
however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use
St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase
Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million
people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin,
a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater
productions, and fireworks shows.
Boston Massachusetts celebrates Evacuation day.
On March 17, 1776, more than fifteen thousand British troops and
loyal British citizens embarked on one hundred twenty-five ships
in Boston Harbor and set sail on March 27th for Halifax,
Treaty of Paris of 1783
Treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War on S
eptember 3, 1783. It was signed in Paris by Benjamin Franklin,
John Adams, and John Jay. Under the terms of the treaty, Britain
recognized the independent nation of the United States of America.
Britain agreed to remove all of its troops from the new nation.
The treaty also set new borders for the United States, including
all land from the Great Lakes on the north to Florida on the south,
and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. The United
States agreed to allow British troops still in America to leave
and also agreed to pay all existing debts owed to Great Britain.
The United States also agreed not to persecute loyalists still in
America and allow those that left America to return.
The Treaty of Paris of 1763 also ended the French and Indian War.
Two More Significant Irish Saints
Patron of babies, blacksmiths, cows and dairy workers, Ireland,
midwives, poets, sailors, scholars, and travelers
by Ann-Marie Imbornoni
St. Brigid (453? - 523?)
Also known as St. Bridget, St. Bride, and Mary of the Gaels
According to legend, Brigid was born into slavery, the natural
daughter of a Christian slave and the pagan chieftain who was
her master. Renowned for her generosity, Brigid eventually won
her freedom after her father grew tired of her giving away his
belongings to beggars and lepers. In another story, it is told
how Brigid prayed that her beauty might be taken from her, in
order to deter any suitors seeking her hand in marriage. Her
prayer was answered, but her beauty was restored after she took
her nun's vows.
Many other unverifiable anecdotes about Brigid also tell of her
charity and happy temperament. What is known for certain, however,
is that she founded the first religious community for Irish
women, at Kildare, and seems to have occupied a privileged
place in the Irish church even in her own time. After her
death at Kildare, her remains were supposedly moved to
Downpatrick, where she was reburied with St. Patrick and St.
Columba. With them, she is considered a patron saint of Ireland.
Patron of bookbinders, Ireland, poets, and Scotland
St. Columba (521-597)
Also known as St. Columcille
Columba's family were Irish nobility, and from his youth he
studied with the best teachers of his time in preparation for the
priesthood. After ordination Columba spent some 15 years wandering
throughout Ireland, working as an itinerant preacher and founding
numerous monasteries, including those at Derry and Durrow.
Then, at the age of 42 he left his country for the island of Iona,
where he and twelve followers founded a monastery. Columba and his
monks spent the next several decades converting the Picts of
northern Britain, who were greatly impressed by the miracles he
performed. One of these miracles involved driving away a
monster from the Ness River with the sign of the cross.
Columba is the Latin form of the Irish name Colum, which means
"dove." Columcille means "dove of the church."
May your heart be warm and happy
With the lilt of Irish laughter
Every day in every way
And forever and ever after.
May you live as long as you want
And never want as long as you live.
May good luck be your friend, forever.
May you always have these blessings...
A soft breeze when summer comes,
A warm fireside in winter.
And always the warm, soft smile of a friend.
on a lighter note...
May your glass be ever full
May the roof over your head be always strong
And may you be in Heaven half an hour
Before the Devil knows you're dead!
May the luck of the Irish be always at hand,
And good friends always near you
May each and every coming day
Bring some special joy to cheer you.
May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.
May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And Heaven accept you.
It's easy to be pleasant
When life flows like a song.
But the man is worthwhile who can smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!