St. Patrick's Day has long been known as a day for partying and drinking. Most people don't even really know what they're celebrating on this holiday (Irish culture? Leprechauns? Guinness?), but it's an amazing excuse to get hammered publicly. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if we went beyond the green decorations and the pints of Irish lager to remember what this holiday is really about?
With what do we associate St. Patrick's Day, beyond the cheap party decorations and the booze? Shamrocks. Christianity. Snakes, maybe. True Irishmen will tell you plenty of legends and tales surrounding the heroism and devotion of Saint Patrick. But that's all most of them are: legends. Instead of basing our facts on hearsay, why don't we look at the hard evidence we do have to come to firmer answers about who Saint Patrick really was? Would that not be the better way to celebrate his life and honor his memory?
So put down the pint glass for a few minutes and let's honor a man who sacrificed much for Christianity and for Ireland. Let's find out what he did that was worthy of a raised glass, and what people have made up or exaggerated over the years. You shouldn't believe everything you hear, especially when your drunken buddies tell it to you!
13 St. Patrick's Day Was Invented by Irish-Americans, Not Irishmen
12 St. Patrick Was Not Irish
Yep. Saint Patrick wasn't Irish. Patrick was born in what is now modern day United Kingdom (it's uncertain whether he was from Wales, England, or Scotland, but we know it wasn't Ireland) around the year 390 C.E. His home was attacked by Irishmen when he was sixteen and he was taken prisoner. They dragged him back to Ireland, where they kept him a prisoner and slave for six years. When he got free, he actually returned to England where he studied religion. He did eventually return to Ireland to spread the "Good Word" because a voice in his head told him Ireland needed him.
11 Prayers Instead Of Partying
10 St. Patrick Didn't Bring Christianity to Ireland
9 Green Hasn't Always Been Associated with St. Patty's Day
8 Corned Beef Isn't A Classic St. Patty's Day Dish
7 St. Patrick Didn't Really Banish Snakes From The Emerald Isle
6 St. Patrick Defeated Ancient Celtic Hero Oisin
Another odd legend about Saint Patrick is that he defeated a legendary warrior, Oisin, in a debate on religion and civilizations. As soon as the battle was won, Oisin died. It's a story made to give Saint Patrick a more badass appearance. Really, none of this happened.
5 St. Patrick Didn't Design The Celtic Cross
4 St. Patrick Didn't Explain the Holy Trinity Using Shamrocks
Shamrocks aren't just symbolizing the Irish countryside, when they are used in Saint Patrick's Day decorations. It is said that St. Patrick tried to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to Irishmen and they didn't understand what he was getting at; how could there be just one God if there were three? So, he bent to the ground, plucked a shamrock, and explained how the three make the one.
3 A Shamrock Only Has Three Leaves - Not Four
2 A Shamrock And A Clover Are Not the Same Thing
1 Patrick Wasn't Even His Name
Finally, we get to the kicker: Patrick wasn't even his real name. The saint was born with the name Maewyn Succat and, interestingly enough, he was not religious at all in his childhood. He formed his religious beliefs after he was kidnapped when he was sixteen. So where do we get the name Patrick? Well, it is possible that he had the name later in life. Perhaps it was thrust upon him when he was a slave, to make the pronunciation of his name easier. Perhaps he changed it when he was a slave or when he was being educated in religion as a way of showing that he was becoming a new man. Or maybe it's just easier to remember him if we call him something that rolls off the tongue a bit better than Maewyn!
Sources: history, nationalgeographic
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