Most people in the United States associate Saint Patrick’s Day with drinking, the color green, drinking, shamrocks and even more drinking. However, the history of the holiday honoring Saint Patrick is much more complex. In fact, the color blue, not emerald green, was originally associated with Saint Patrick’s Day, but because Ireland was nicknamed the “Emerald Isle,” green began to take the place of blue as the holiday’s main color. The story of Saint Patrick is not one of alcohol over-consumption, but one of kidnapping, beatings and the Voice of God guiding Saint Patrick’s decisions.
Saint Patrick wasn’t even from Ireland — he was born into a British aristocratic family around A.D. 390, and wasn’t devoutly religious. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped during a raiding party of warrior Picts, brought to Ireland and sold as a slave. Patrick would spend six years as a sheep herder, before he would be able to escape and return home. During this time, he became a Christian, largely due to his isolation and lonliness. According to “The full story of St. Patrick’s life from kidnapping to the Irish people’s faith,” by William Thomas, “an angel of the Lord came in the night, and told him of a ship that was leaving Ireland,” and Patrick was able to escape. He would later return to Ireland as a priest “and spend the rest of his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity.”
Trying to convert the Irish was not an easy task; Patrick regularly took beatings and was harassed by Irish nobility. His British superiors did not view his attempts as worthy of notice. When he died, he faded into obscurity, forgotten almost entirely by the populace. However, as the decades went on, his legend grew, and he eventually became the patron saint of Ireland. Over time, Saint Patrick had a holiday named after him, and people began to honor him for his contributions to Ireland.
While Irish immigrants to America began celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the 1800s, it didn’t gain national popularity until the 1970s. Irish-Americans in New York and Boston had been celebrating with large banquets, parades and a lot of drinking, and this eventually caught the attention of non-Irish-Americans, who began to take part in the festivities as well. Saint Patrick’s Day is now celebrated all around the U.S., especially in cities with large Irish populations.
Ian Terry is a professional writing major. He is the Head Writer for the Telecaster show TURN and a first-degree black belt in karate. He has a self-published a novel, Monster Seeker 2: Rise of the Phoenix King, and a short story, Bad Liar Society.