Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated on 17th March, believed to be the date of his death. In Ireland, it is both a public holiday and a holy day of obligation. Outside of Ireland, it is deemed as a celebration of Ireland itself.
St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain during the 5th century AD and his father, Calpornius was a deacon. He was captured from his home at the age of sixteen and taken as a slave to Ireland. He lived in captivity for six years before escaping and returning to his family. While in Ireland, Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and became fluent in the Irish language and culture. His time as a shepherd strengthened his relationship with God and eventually led him to convert to Christianity. After six years of captivity, St. Patrick heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home. Fleeing his master, he travelled two hundred miles to a ship and sailed home to Britain.
St. Patrick was in his early twenties when he returned to his family and continued to study Christianity. Several years after his return home, he had a vision of a man called Victoricus appealing to him return to Ireland to spread Christianity. Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary and in later life, he served as an ordained bishop. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
It is believed that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in the form of 300 churches and the conversion of over 100,000 people. The symbol of the shamrock as the principal emblem for St. Patrick's Day traces its roots back to him using the three-leafed plant to illustrate the Holy Trinity in his teachings to the Irish. The absence of snakes in Ireland has given rise to the legend that they had all been banished into the sea by St. Patrick after snakes attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo.
Notable locations in Ireland associated with St. Patrick include:
- Slemish, Co. Antrim, where it is believed he was enslaved as a shepherd
- Saul, Co. Down, where it is claimed he founded his first church,
- Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo, where he fasted for the forty days of lent.
- Lough Derg (translation: The Red Lake), Co. Donegal, where he killed a serpent and its blood turned the water red.
- Down cathedral, Downpatrick, Co. Down, believed to be the burial place of St. Patrick.