“Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig dhuit!” – St Patrick’s Day Blessings to you!

St Patrick [1]
St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland is thought to have been born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.

Around the age of sixteen he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave herding cattle and sheep. After about six years, he had a dream a boat was coming to rescue him. He made his way to the coast, escaped and returned home to his parents. It is thought he may have studied to be a deacon like his father in Britain and in Europe.

After receiving a letter, he is said to have had a vision to return to Ireland to preach. He returned about 432 A.D. to convert the Irish to Christianity. He used a three leaf shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. He converted the Picts and Norman, and established monasteries, churches, and schools across Ireland. St Patrick is said to have driven snakes out of Ireland, this can be interpreted to have driven out Paganism.

He died on 17 March, around 460 A.D. It is thought he is buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick County Down, alongside St Brigid and St Columba. A Cross commemorating this was erected in the 1900’s.

St Patrick’s Day is celebrated on 17 March in Ireland, a Holy Day of obligation and Public Holiday. Traditionally people attend Mass in the morning where the hymn “Hail Glorious St Patrick” is sung (view here).

In the afternoon in most large cities, the traditional St Patrick’s Day Parades take place led by a float depicting St Patrick. Marching bands from the military, schools, and clubs, Irish Dancers and Traditional Musicians, Sporting Clubs also take part. A shamrock is worn by adults and children wear a St Patrick’s Badge (view example here), mostly green ribbon with a harp. Wearing of green is also traditional, “Wear Green for the Luck of the Irish.”

The Irish Diaspora have brought the traditions of St Patrick to all sides of the world. In the USA, most states celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a parade, with New York and Boston being the largest. The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) attends the New York parade. Most cities in Australia have St Patrick’s Day celebrations with parades and concerts.

Despite the myths, Guinness and the River Liffey are not turned green for the day in Ireland!

Bernadette Strang

The Bell of St Patrick and its Shrine

St Patrick’s Writings

[1] St Patrick stained glass window located at the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel, North Sydney, New South Wales.