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The History of St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is a colorful holiday celebrated by millions across the globe, but do you know where this festive day really began? As many know, St. Patrick’s Day is named after the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick; however, many do not know is that he was not actually Irish. According to history.com, St. Patrick was born in Britain but was kidnapped at the age of 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave where he later escaped and then returned to Ireland free. He is credited with converting Ireland to Christianity. Not much is known about the life of St. Patrick other than his missionary work and service to Ireland. On what is believed to be the day he died, March 17th 461 A.D., feasts and celebrations were born honoring his life and work. The day flourished as a Roman Catholic feast day; however, as time went on, the celebrations spread.

Fast forward to March 17th, 1772. Irish soldiers serving in the English army found a way to reconnect to their Irish culture by parading through New York in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. When the great potato famine hit Ireland in 1845, the United States saw a massive influx of close to 1 million Irish Catholics immigrating to the United States. As common in United States history, the Irish were not welcome in their new home and when they took to the streets to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, they were often portrayed in a negative light. As time went on the Irish began to organize and utilize their numbers as political power; thus, St. Patrick’s Day was not only a thread connecting them to their roots, but a show of the power of strength in numbers. This laid foundation for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day to take hold in the melting pot of United States cultures.

So, how did St. Patrick’s Day evolve from a Catholic day of feasting to the boisterous image it now holds today? As stated before, St. Patrick’s Day originated as a day of feasting to commemorate the death and life of the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Despite the celebration taking place during the holy time of Lent, Lenten laws were often waived on the day to allow for the feasting. Up until the 1970’s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17th in order to honor the day, in stark contrast to how the day is celebrated today. It was in 1995 that the Irish government started a cultural campaign utilizing St. Patrick’s Day as a way to drive tourism and to illustrate Irish culture. From there, Irish culture and the Irish celebration of St. Patrick’s Day took off. Ultimately, St. Patrick’s Day is a staple when most think of Irish culture. However, it’s always important to learn about the history and respect the culture from which it comes.




Shamrock: Pexels.com

St. Patrick: History.com


Student at NMSU double majoring in Journalism and Government. 
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