St. Patrick wasn't always a christian.  He considers himself a pagan until the age of 16, when he was taken into captivity by Irish raiders and became a slave in Ireland for six years.  It was during this time he became a christian.  He finally escaped and returned to Wales.  Later in life he joined the church and returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop.  Originally his name was Maewyn, but after becoming a christian he changed his name to Patrick. 

St. Patrick is generally believed to have died in 461 AD on March 17th, but there are discrepancies in the year.  Some historians believe that he died in the year 420, and others in 493.  Although it was not confirmed, he is thought to be buried at Down Cathedral. 

There are several legends surrounding the life of St. Patrick.  One legend states that St. Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock as an illustration to teach the Irish about the holy trinity.  The shamrock is still a symbol today for St. Patrick's day.  Another legend states when on missionary trips, he would stick his walking staff into the ground, and that the staff would take root before the people actually received his message of Christianity.  One legend claims that while fasting, he was attacked by snakes and drove them to the sea.

While converting many to christianity, St. Patrick was arrested many times but always managed to escape.  He ministered to the Irish for about thirty years. 

On March 17th, the American Episcopal Church honors St. Patrick with a day of feast.  Even though the pope never officially declared him as a saint, many churches claimed him as one and he is still greatly respected in Ireland and many other countries.

Interesting Facts

  • St. Patrick's Day was first publicly celebrated in the United States in Boston in 1737.
  • The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place on March 17, 1762 when Irish soldiers marched through New York City.  No floats or vehicles are allowed in the NYC parade.  Over 100,000 people march in the event.
  • More than 100 St. Patrick's Day parades take place in the United States.
  • More than 36 million American's have Irish roots.
  • It was once a law in Ireland that the pubs had to close on St. Patrick's Day.
  • Chicago used vegetable dye to color the Chicago River green, beginning in 1962.
  • leprechaun's were not originally associated with St. Patrick's Day. 
  • Immigrants began using corned beef as a traditional dish because it was cheaper.
  • The Irish began wearing shamrocks as a symbol of pride when the English began to make laws against Catholicism and take over Irish land.
  • A Christian hymn titled 'Saint Patrick's Breastplate', has become a standard hymn and still used in many churches today.
  • The original color associated with this holiday was blue, not green as used today.
  • Erin Go Braugh means 'Ireland forever'.
  • A well known Irish toast says, "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."
  • King Laoghaire accepted Christianity and gave St. Patrick permission to spread the gospel throughout Ireland.