Who was St. Patrick?
On Monday, March 17, the corned beef will be cooking, the green beer will be flowing, and the bands will be marching, all in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Have you ever wondered who St. Patrick was and why we have a holiday in honor of him?
Patrick was born in the fifth century in Roman-occupied Britain. He came from a Christian family but was not religious himself. At age 16, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken back to Ireland, where he was held captive for six years. While captive, he worked as a shepherd, spent a lot of time in prayer, and then converted to Christianity.
After fleeing his captors, he eventually returned back to his home and family. He continued to learn more about the Christian faith and then traveled back to Ireland as a missionary. St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the arrival of the Christian faith into Ireland. Legend has it that one of the teaching tools St. Patrick used as a missionary was the shamrock. The three leaves of the shamrock were said to help explain the Holy Trinity.
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, many Americans will be dining on corned beef. While not originating from Ireland, corned beef was used as a bacon substitute by Irish immigrants for the traditional Irish meal of bacon and cabbage. Irish soda bread is not from Ireland either. The bread, which uses baking soda instead of yeast, is credited to the early American settlers and Native Americans.
Perhaps one of the most unusual St. Patrick’s Day traditions is the green Chicago River. What started out as a way of testing for pollution for more than 50 years ago, has now become an essential part of Chicago’s celebration each year. A key ingredient used in this tradition is more than 40 pounds of powdered vegetable dye, which is said to be safe for the environment.
However you celebrate this coming St. Patrick’s Day, “May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.” (old Irish blessing)