Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17 is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other festival, being marked by both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church, as well as the Irish diaspora.
Saint Patrick (c. AD 387-461) converted Ireland to Christianity and he is said to have used a shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, hence Ireland’s long association with the shamrock and the color green. However, Ireland’s traditional emblem remains the harp.
No one knows where St Patrick was born, but it was somewhere in Scotland or possibly Wales. He was a pagan who was captured in a raid and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped after six years but, believing that his ordeal was due to a lack of faith, trained as a priest and returned to Ireland as a missionary. Although his writings survive, there is no record of where he is buried. The idea that the saint expelled snakes from Ireland is a metaphor for expelling paganism, as no snakes were ever native to the country.
America’s first St Patrick’s Day was celebrated in Boston in 1737 but it was as recently as 1995 that Dublin established its own St Patrick’s Day Festival, which now lasts for four days.