Who is St. Patrick? Why Does He Have a Special Day? And Why Should You Never Iron a Four-Leaf Clover?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

What’s this all about?

March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day!!!  It’s almost here!!!  This is the day that marks and commemorates the death, in 493AD, of Maewyn Succat, now known world-wide as St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.  Traditionally, it is considered a minor holiday.  Certainly, never on the scale of Easter or Christmas.  But most assuredly, it is a day for notice and celebration!!!


Well, here’s the story:  around 400AD, when still a teenager, Maewyn was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish pirates invading his hometown on the west coast of Britain.  Taken to Ireland, he was held captive for six years and forced to work as a sheep herder before miraculously escaping and wending his way back home!  Maewyn believed the Lord protected and guided him safely home.  In a dream, he was inspired by God to return to Ireland and preach the Gospel!!!  He spent the next 15 years in a British monastery preparing for a life of missionary work.  Upon ordination his name was changed to Patricius and in 433AD he returned to Ireland, the land of his captors, to embark on his missionary teachings.  Ireland was mostly pagan at that time.  For forty years, Patricius traveled across the land promoting Christianity and founding many, many churches.  In his teachings, he would use a shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity.  It is worth noting that for this reason, St. Patrick is usually depicted with the common three-leaf shamrock.  But the rare four-leaf clover was regarded by the ancient Celts as a charm against evil spirits.  And now, the two are often intertwined.  Because of Maewyn Succat and his dedication to preach the Gospel, literacy in Ireland expanded; the Brehon Laws of Medieval Ireland were revised and codified; and Christianity spread across the land.

Stained glass of St. Patrick in Junction City, Ohio church. Note the shamrock in his hand. (photo by Nheyob/Wikimedia Commons)
Shamrock (National Library of Ireland on The Commons)
Four-leaf clover. (Cygnus921 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)


How did all the global celebratory ballyhoo begin?

To put it simply, because the Irish migrated!!!  As the Irish began to explore and raid and colonize and flee oppression and famine, they took along their religion and customs.  The earliest recorded IRISH PARADE was organized by Vicar Ricardo Artur and held, in 1601, in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, but at the time was a Spanish Colony.  In 1737, Irishmen living in Boston gathered to honor the death of their homeland’s patron saint with a parade.  And sometime in the 1760s, a group of Irishmen, serving in the British Army, began the yearly tradition of parading through the streets of New York City on St. Patrick’s Day.  Today, the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, at 1.5 miles up Fifth Avenue, is considered the largest in the world!!!  The shortest, at 98 feet, is in Hot Springs, Arkansas and draws 30,000 spectators!!!  Since the 1600s, Dubliners in Ireland have faithfully celebrated the life and accomplishments of their patron saint. Additionally, St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated with large parades world-wide.  From Montreal to Tokyo to Oslo to Auckland and even to Montserrat in the British West Indies, the 17th of March is a day of festivity!!!  And then there’s Chicago where they dye the Chicago River green!!!  And Sydney where the Opera House is lit green for the holiday. But in Munich, an entire weekend is needed for the street food festival, parade, and Guinness Beer fest!!!

The 1907 St. Patrick Parade on Fifth Ave., New York. (United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ggbain.03218 from Wikimedia Commons)
St. Patrick’s Society Parade in Montréal, Québec, Canada mid 1800s. (collections.rom.on.ca Author James Duncan (1806-1881) public domain)
St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, Ireland (William Murphy Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)
The Chicago River turns green on St. Patrick’s Day. (Ryan Dickey Creative Commons Attribution 2.0) Generic
Sydney Opera House glows in shades of green for St. Patrick’s Day. (Kahunapule Michael Johnson Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)
In Munich, even the Haufbräuhaus is decked in green!!! (Romanist~dewiki Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

What’s the take-away here?

Wherever and however you choose to observe the accomplishments of St. Patrick, don’t forget to wear something green; maybe even dine on corned beef and cabbage; definitely drink some green beer…..

Fittingly, March 17th is National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day!!!! (Willis Lam Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)
Ahh…what would St. Patrick’s Day be without Green Beer!!! (SpaceAgeSage, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

…..but never, ever iron a four-leaf clover:

You don’t want to press your luck!!!!


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