Over the course of history, holidays and the reasons behind them have changed dramatically. The celebrations of holidays used to be marked by the great religious feeling behind them. Church was celebrated reverently and holidays only intensified those feelings. Even before the wide spread of Christianity, pagan religions always celebrated holidays tied to that religion.
This Friday celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. When I think of this holiday, it’s green colors, shamrocks, pots o’ gold and leprechauns that seem to spring to mind. Stores, parades offices and even people are clad in these festive decorations and it is normally the day among days to get completely and utterly drunk.
Over the years, the holiday, which did indeed begin as the celebration of a Christian saint, has become more and more secular rather than religious. But who is this man we all seem ready to drink to March 17?
Little is actually known of this saint. Born in Wales near the end of the fourth century, Patrick was the son of wealthy parents.
Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested by many sources that Patrick himself did not share the faith.
When Patrick was 16, a group of Irish raiders attacked his family’s estate and took him hostage. Patrick spent the next six years in captivity working as a shepherd, isolated from the rest of the world.
For solace, sources say that Patrick turned to Christianity and, by the time of his escape, he was devout to his religion.
According to the History Channel, Patrick’s own writings told of a voice (which he believed was God’s) that spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.
Walking nearly 200 miles from County Mayo to the Irish Coast, Patrick made his way back to Britain. It was there that he reported having a second revelation. Patrick said he saw an angel in a dream telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary.
From that moment on, Patrick began religious training that lasted for more than 15 years. After becoming a priest, he traveled back to Ireland to minister to Christians who already resided in Ireland and to begin converting the Irish.
Patrick used the juxtaposition of Irish traditions and Christian belief to make a smooth transition into Christianity. For example, he began to use a bonfire to celebrate Easter given the Irish tradition of using fire to celebrate the gods. He then superimposed the sun, a power Irish symbol, onto a cross to make what is now known as a Celtic cross.
On March 17, 460 A.D., Patrick died. It is on this day that Christians began to celebrate his life and the contributions he made to the Christian religion. Over the years, the Christian basis of the holiday has faded away to the more secular jubilee that takes place today.
While each celebration has its merits and places within life, the history of the world and the past of human civilization is a precious gift of knowledge that should never be overlooked.