History of St Patrick's DaySt Patrick's Day has its origins in ancient times. Patrick lived in the British Isles, a land invaded and conquered first by the Romans and then by Germanic tribes. Patrick was captured and taken as a slave at the age of sixteen.
Legend has it that one night while he was praying, a voice told him to escape and find a ship that was waiting for him two hundred miles away. Patrick got to the ship, sailed to Europe, and disembarked in what is now probably France. He led several of the ship's crew through a dangerous forest, praying all the time. Neither Patrick nor any member of his crew was captured. When some of the men were about to die of starvation, wild animals appeared for them to eat. Events such as these appeared to be miracles and gave rise to later legends surrounding Patrick.
Once home, Patrick felt that he was called by God to perform an important mission. He believed it was his duty to go back to Ireland and convert the Celtic people to the Christian religion.
Patrick arrived in Ireland and became a missionary, travelling from village to village and talking about his faith. Once, several members of a tribe approached Patrick and told him that they found it difficult to understand and believe in the Holy Trinity. Patrick thought a moment, then stooped down and picked one of the plentiful shamrocks growing wild around Ireland. "Here are three leaves," he said, "yet it is one plant. Imagine the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as each of these leaves. Here they are, yet they are one plant." The tribesmen understood, because Patrick had used a familiar object to explain. From that time on, the shamrock has been a revered symbol of Ireland.
Stories of Saint Patrick, for by then he was a saint, reached far and wide. His most famous feat is forcing the snakes out of the entire country of Ireland. Even though there are many different stories about how he accomplished such a task, it is probably not true.
St Patrick died on March 17 and the Irish people set aside the day to mourn. He became the patron saint of Ireland. Mourning turned to commemorating him and celebrating his life. Americans have inherited this custom. On St Patrick's Day in the United States, millions of people celebrate whether they are Irish or not!