St Pa­trick – the most recog­nised of the pa­tron saints of Ire­land

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Saint Pa­trick’s Day (The Fes­ti­val of Pa­trick) is a cul­tural and re­li­gious hol­i­day cel­e­brated on March 17 in Dublin, Ire­land. The tra­di­tion came about at the in­sti­ga­tion of the Ir­ish Protes­tant or­gan­i­sa­tion The Knights of St Pa­trick. The in­au­gu­ral pa­rade took place on March 17, 1783. In what has been de­scribed as an act of cul­tural re­ori­en­ta­tion the Bri­tish es­tab­lished a new fo­cus of rit­ual and spec­ta­cle in the fig­ure of St Pa­trick, a pre-ref­or­ma­tion saint who ap­pealed to both the Ro­man Catholic and Ir­ish Protes­tant tra­di­tions in Ire­land. Guard­ing the in­au­gu­ral pro­ces­sion were the mainly Protes­tant Vol­un­teers who were charged with keep­ing or­der on the streets and at the ser­vice in the Protes­tant St Pa­trick’s Cathe­dral. The sub­se­quent cel­e­bra­tions took place in two venues: on March 17 in the ball­room (which the Lord Lieu­tenant Earl Tem­ple II had re­named af­ter St Pa­trick) of Dublin Cas­tle, the an­cient seat of Bri­tish power in Ire­land, in the old part of the city, and, on the March 18, at the Ro­tunda, a site closely as­so­ci­ated with the Vol­un­teers lead­ers Lord Charlemont and the sec­ond Duke of Le­in­ster. It sup­pos­edly com­mem­o­rates Saint Pa­trick, the most com­monly recog­nised of the pa­tron saints of Ire­land, and the ar­rival of Chris­tian­ity in Ire­land. It is ob­served by the Catholic Church, the Angli­can Com­mu­nion (es­pe­cially the Church of Ire­land), the East­ern Ortho­dox Church and Lutheran Church. Saint Pa­trick’s Day was made an of­fi­cial feast day in the early sev­en­teenth cen­tury, and has grad­u­ally be­come a sec­u­lar cel­e­bra­tion of Ir­ish cul­ture in gen­eral. The day is gen­er­ally char­ac­terised by the at­ten­dance of church ser­vices, wear­ing of green at­tire and the lift­ing of Len­ten re­stric­tions on eat­ing and drink­ing al­co­hol, which is of­ten pro­scribed dur­ing the rest of the sea­son. Saint Pa­trick’s Day is a public hol­i­day in the Repub­lic of Ire­land, North­ern Ire­land, New­found­land and Labrador and in Montser­rat. It is also widely cel­e­brated by the Ir­ish di­as­pora, es­pe­cially in places such as Great Bri­tain, Canada, the United States, Ar­gentina, Australia, and New Zealand, among oth­ers. To­day, St Pa­trick’s Day is prob­a­bly the most widely cel­e­brated saint’s day in the world. Lit­tle is known of Pa­trick’s early life, though it is known that he was born in Ro­man Bri­tain in the fourth cen­tury, into a wealthy Ro­mano-bri­tish fam­ily. His fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were dea­cons in the Chris­tian 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 said that he was called back to Ire­land, though as a bishop, to Chris­tianise the Ir­ish from their na­tive poly­the­ism. Ir­ish folk­lore tells that one of his teach­ing meth­ods in­cluded us­ing the sham­rock to ex­plain the Chris­tian doc­trine of the Trin­ity to the Ir­ish peo­ple. Af­ter nearly thirty years of evan­ge­lism, he died on March 17, 461, and ac­cord­ing to tra­di­tion, was buried at Down­patrick. 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.

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