Origins of St. Patrick’s Day
Bible Study Supplement
St. Patrick’s Day
This time we are going to investigate the origins of St. Patrick’s Day. During this investigation we will try and discover the origin for the mandate to wear green, the symbolic significance of the leprechaun and clover. For this historical study we are going to reference one old book regarding the historical significance of this that and see if we can get to the bottom of it. Let’s begin…
A Historical Peek…
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in March but where did this holiday (holy day) start. St. Patrick “was born about the year 372, and when only sixteen years of age, was carried off by pirates, who sold him into slavery in Ireland; where his master employed him as a swineherd on the well-known mountain of Sleamish, in the county of Antrim. Here he passed seven years, during which time he acquired a knowledge of the Irish language, and made himself acquainted with the manners, habits, and customs of the people. Escaping from captivity, and, after many adventures, reaching the Continent, he was successively ordained deacon, priest, and bishop; and then once more, with the authority of Pope Celestine, he returned to Ireland to preach the Gospel to its then heathen inhabitants.”1 Here as with all previous historical study supplements we see once again Rome having played a hand in the origin of yet another celebrated American holiday.
St. Patrick has many supposed miracles attributed to him that appear to be originated the same as pagan legends. A few of those include, starting a fire using ice and gently blow on it, casting all of the snakes out of Ireland, and cursing the Druids. Many towns, ports and other points of interest in the area derive there name in one form or another including that of St. Patrick. St. Patrick started a couple of churches, including one in Dublin. Finally “he is commonly stated to have died at Saul on the 17th of March 493, in the one hundred and twenty-first year of his age.”2
Now the clover, known as the shamrock, “the well-known trefoil plant, and Irish national emblem, is almost universally worn in the hat over all Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day. The popular notion is, that when St. Patrick was preaching the doctrine of the Trinity to the pagan Irish, he used this plane, bearing three leaves upon one stem, as a symbol or illustration of the great mystery.”3 “The trefoil in Arabic is called shamrakh, and was held sacred in Iran as emblematical of the Persian Triads.”4 Another point of interest regarding this holiday deals with Noah.
“The early English calendars pretend that on the 17th of March Noah entered the ark.”5 A very interesting piece of history that both the entering of the ark and St. Patrick’s Day would have been observed on the same day. This sums up our brief look into St. Patrick’s Day. While the origin of the leprechaun and wearing of green is unknown and may very well have been added in the not-so-distant past we can once again observe that this holiday is associated with a Roman Catholic saint. As Christians our basic doctrine goes against that of the RCC and therefore holidays that glorify their saints should not be observed.
1. Book of Days, Chambers, 1879