THURSDAY, MARCH 17: As pandemic restrictions continue to lift and more cities return to the parades and festivals that often signify St. Patrick’s Day, revelers around the world remember the legendary Saint Patrick of Ireland—while embracing the Irish culture through food, music, costuming and more.
WHO WAS THE REAL ST. PATRICK?
The legendary patron saint of Ireland began life c. 385 CE, in Roman Britain. With a wealthy family whose patron was a deacon, the young man who would become known as St. Patrick led a comfortable life until his teenage years, when he was kidnapped and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. During his six years in Ireland, Patrick gained a deeper Christian faith. When he dreamed that God told him to flee to the coast, Patrick did so—and traveled home to become a priest. Following ordination, however, another dream prompted Patrick to do what no one expected: to return to Ireland.
As a Christian in Ireland, Patrick worked to convert the pagan Irish. With a three-leaved shamrock in hand to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans, St. Patrick converted many. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 at Downpatrick.
Surprisingly, the most widely known saint from Ireland was never formally canonized by the Catholic Church. Since no formal canonization process existed in the Church’s first millennium, St. Patrick was deemed a saint only by popular acclaim and local approval.
St. Pat’s Day may be a secular bash in many communities, but it also has deep religious roots that matter to millions. The purest forms of religious expression, each year, occur—naturally—in Ireland. One of the most popular posts in the decade-long history of ReadTheSpirit is a collection of three versions of the famous prayer known as The Breastplate:
Versions 1 and 2: Here is St. Patrick’s Breastplate in English prose and in 19th Century lines of a hymn.
Version 3: We also have St. Patrick’s Breastplate in Gaelic.
You probably remember some of the most famous lines from St. Patrick, such as:
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.
But, there is so much more to this classic prayer!
A CHRISTIAN FEAST DAY—AND AN EPIC FESTIVAL
St. Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day by the early 17th century, observed by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Lutherans and members of the Church of Ireland. Today, countries the world over offer citizens and tourists Irish-themed foods, drinks and culture on March 17. Dances, processions, performances and more illustrate the vibrancy of Irish history—all set against the very Irish color of green.
In 1996, the Republic of Ireland began the St. Patrick’s Festival to highlight everything Irish to other world citizens; today, the festival lasts five days, attracts more than 1 million visitors and requires 18 months of planning. (Check out the St. Patrick’s Festival website for more.)
RECIPES, CRAFT IDEAS & MORE
Got dreams of hearty Irish stews, hot Reuben sandwiches and cold drinks? Get into the Irish spirit with these recipe ideas (and some crafts, too):
- For a true Irish stew, cook up something hearty and authentic. The New York Times has tips and ideas on how to cook the perfect stew for St. Patty’s.
- A plethora of easy-to-follow recipes, from brisket to soda bread, is at AllRecipes.
- Cook up a meal like those of your favorite celebrity chefs, with recipes at Food Network.
- For both tasty recipes and elegant craft suggestions, check out Martha Stewart.
- Kids can get into the spirit of the Irish with craft ideas from Parenting.com.