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