Who Was Saint Patrick Really?
Having been born in England (yes, I came as an immigrant to these golden shores) I found the holiday that honors Ireland’s patron saint something of a surprise, considering that these colonies were no longer part of the British Commonwealth. Curious about the roots of this unique holiday (in which Americans don shamrocks and drink green beer) I did some research and was surprised to learn that the holiday is a very old one as it began in 1737 when The Irish Society of Boston organized the first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the American colonies. In 1780, during the Revolutionary War, General George Washington had soldiers of Irish descent under his command and he allowed them to observe the holiday on March 17. From that day to this, Saint Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in America by Irish and non-Irish alike.
But who was this Irish saint? According to Wikipedia, in the Fourth Century Patrick was captured as a slave when he was sixteen years old and taken to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family in Britain. After entering the Church, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century Patrick had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland. However, most available details of his life are from later biographies, and are looked upon with doubt and criticism.
Although my research led me to realize that very little is known about one of the most famous saints in Christendom, and although there are many theories revolving around his life, his works and who he really was, it doesn’t mean we should cease to celebrate in his name on March 17. It is a fun holiday, after all, and gives everyone the opportunity to live it up and have a good time. I, too, like to join in St. Patrick’s Day revels – although I do draw the line at drinking green beer!