Every year, on March 17, people celebrate the life and legacy of St. Patrick, an Irish saint. There are feasts and parades, dances and parties…but how did this all start? Well, the story of St. Patrick’s Day goes all the way back to the late 4th century.

Although you may think that St. Patrick was an Irishman named Patrick, he was actually a Welshman named Maewyn Succat. When he was 16 years old he was captured by Irish pirates, sold as a slave and forced to work as a goat herder. It was during this time that his spiritual transformation occurred and after six years he made a daring escape back to his homeland. It was only in 432 AD when he became a bishop, that he changed his name to Patrick (or Patricius to his friends). The name Patrick originates from the root word for father.

Soon after St. Patrick became a bishop, he was sent to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity to pagans, and to support small communities of Christians already there. St. Patrick used a three-leaf shamrock or “clover,” the official flower of Ireland, to explain the Holy Trinity—The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. This is how the association of shamrocks with St. Patrick’s Day originated.

One March 17 during the mid 5th century, St. Patrick died at age 78 at the Monastery of Saul in Ulidia, Ireland. The earliest known celebrations were held then, marking the anniversary of his death. St. Patrick’s Day has been observed in Ireland for over 1,000 years as a religious holiday!

People have feasts, parades, and parties in St. Patrick’s honor. There are ways you can celebrate. On St. Patrick’s Day, it is an Irish tradition to pinch someone who is not wearing green—so make sure to throw some green into your ensemble!

You can watch Irish movies, such as “ The Secret of Roan Inish,” “The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns” or “The Luck of the Irish.” Or you can bake Irish specialties such as Irish Soda Bread. There are many ways you can celebrate—as for me, I will be celebrating my birthday on March 17! I hope you enjoyed learning about the iconic holiday that is St. Patrick’s day.

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