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The Origins of St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day celebrates the Roman Catholic feast day of the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461. But did you know that he wasn't even Irish? Here are some fun facts about St. Patrick and some activities you can use to teach about his day.

Patrick's birthname was Maewyn. He was born in Roman Britain. He was kidnapped into slavery and brought to Ireland. Saint Patrick was a priest and former slave and who is known converting the Irish to Christianity.  St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland

He escaped to a monastery in Gaul (France) and converted to Christianity. He went back to Ireland in 432 as a missionary. While Christianity had already taken hold in the country, tradition has it that Patrick confronted the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites, making Christianity more widespread. 


Eighteenth century Irish soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War held the first St. Patrick Day parades. The celebrations became a way for the Irish to connect with their roots after they moved to America.

Patrick became a bishop and after his death was named Ireland's patron saint. Celebrations in Ireland were understated though. When the Irish emigrated to the U.S., they created the bigger celebrations and parades known today.

Fun Facts about St. Patrick's Day

  • St. Patrick used the three-leaf shamrock to explain the Trinity to non-Christians.  The leaves stood for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • At the age of 16, St Patrick was taken prisoner and made a slave by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate.  They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity.
  • After more than six years as a slave Patrick escaped.  According to his writing, he was guided by a voice that had spoken to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.
  • The shamrock: According to legend St. Patrick used the three leaf clover (or shamrock) to explain the Trinity.

    Dyeing the river green: The practice of dyeing the river green started in Chicago in 1962, when city officials decided to dye a portion of the Chicago River green.

    Corn beef and cabbage: This is an Irish American dish. Irish Americans were so poor they could not afford certain meals. On St. Patrick's Day, the best meal they could afford was beef and cabbage. It became a staple for the holiday.

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