As we all know, St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the death of St. Patrick.
Well actually, it celebrates his life, but March 17th is his date of death.
I don’t get it either.
In any case, St. Patrick is the patron saint and apostle of Ireland. Which is ironic because he was born in Roman England. Actually, he could’ve also been born in Scotland. Fifth century birth records weren’t very detailed.
Either way, he wasn’t actually Irish.
Part 1: A Saintly Saga
St. Patrick’s real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat, but his Roman name was Patricius, which later became Patrick.
At the age of 6, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery. A few years later, he escaped to France. I guess he never saw his parents again. Who knows? The kind of crap that went on back then makes the ghetto look good.
Anyway, he studied at a monastery and, as a Christian bishop traveling Gaelic Ireland, I’m sure you can guess what St. Patrick was up to.
Yup, converting Pagans.
He did this until he was super old. Like, 40.
But in 400 AD, that makes him practically 100.
Of course, that didn’t stop the Celtic Druids from challenging St. Patrick’s widespread conversion. They arrested him several times.
But if St. Patrick escaped Roman slavery, he could wiggle his way out of druid jails.
And he did every time.
Part 2: The Legend
So what makes St. Patrick so special? It surely isn’t his jail-breaking guile.
No. Although he accomplished many things (buildings monasteries, befriending royalty and successful preaching) St. Patrick is best known for his explanation of the Holy Trinity. Each part (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is represented by a shamrock leaf.
Except, nobody knows if he actually explained it this way.
It’s a believable tale, though, until you learn the other story people spread. Apparently, St. Patrick put the curse of God on venomous snakes and drove them all from Ireland.
Sure he did. Just like the druids repelled evil spirits with a four-leaf clover.
Part 3: Immigration of Irish Values
Flimsy legends aside, the Irish have honored St. Patrick for over a thousand years.
Traditionally, they attended church and waived the Christian rules of Lent by feasting with meat.
That is, until 1962, when New York City held the first St. Patrick’s Day parade.
From there it was a slippery slope of Americanization.
With all the Irish immigrants, who escaped 1845’s Great Potato Famine, firmly settled in the U.S., an explosion of St. Patty’s tradition occurred over the next 30 years.
Part 4: Modern Traditions
Today, we use St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to get plastered by noon and make out with strangers.
“Kiss Me I’m Irish? Don’t mind if I do.”
“Actually, I was born in Sacramento.”
“Works for me.”
Let’s face it. Nobody is really Irish enough to wear those pins. Yeah, maybe your great grandparents immigrated together and your family keeps tradition, but you were born in America. And two generations later, after visiting Ireland once in college, can you really make that claim?
Well, I don’t know you. Maybe you can. Either way, I know how you’re going to be dressed on March 17th because in proper representation of Ireland, we all wear green.
In fact, everything is green. Beer is dyed green. The Chicago River is dyed green.
Faces are dyed green. No, wait. That’s the over consumption of alcohol kicking in.
McDonald’s serves Shamrock shakes and dollar stores sell out of cheap bead necklaces.
We also have juvenile superstitions! If you don’t wear green, you’ll get pinched.
It’s a story that developed in the 1700’s. Green made you invisible to Leprechauns and spared you their pinches.
Oh yeah, by the way, leprechauns?
Part 5: Things That Have Nothing To Do With St. Patrick’s Day
Leprechauns are well-known Irish folklore. They chase rainbows for gold, make shoes and are magical tricksters. Sometimes they’re evil.
Guess what. Originally Leprechauns were said to wear red, but the 20th century changed their depictions to green. You know what else the 20th century did? Buried the real meaning of St. Patrick’s Day behind a cheap glass of beer.
What would St. Patrick say if he lived today? He’d probably thank church attendees for their loyalty. He’d probably also try to ward the evil spirits off a toaster.
Would he appreciate the green-clad drunkards and relentless holiday exploitation by our nation’s corporations? Perhaps he’d see it as a complete derailment from his life’s work. Or perhaps he’d see our celebratory ways as tradition themselves.
I think we’re lucky never to know.