The Chicago River is dyed green each year for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, shown here in 2008.
Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a yearly holiday celebrated on 17 March. It is named after Saint Patrick (circa AD 387–461), the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. It began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s. However, it has gradually become more of a secular celebration of Ireland’s culture.
It is a public holiday on the island of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) and widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora in places such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and Montserrat. …
Little is known of Patrick’s early life, though it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the fifth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father and grandfather were deacons in the Church. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.
In 432, he again says that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to save the Irish, and indeed he was successful at this, focusing on converting royalty and aristocracy as well as the poor. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of teaching and spreading God’s Word he died on 17 March, 461 AD, and was buried at Downpatrick, so tradition says. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish Church.