As its name implies, St. Patrick’s Day is indeed a Christian holiday (specifically Roman Catholic), or at least it was until it too become commercialized and festive. Now it is observed religiously only by Irish Catholics and Anglicans, having long become a holiday more associated with Irish people and Irish culture in general (even for non-Irish, whose biggest draw to Irish culture is the ubiquitous festivity of drinking). Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the purported death day of, go figure, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland as a whole (and of the Irish by extension). It was made an official Christian ‘feast day’—those days centered around a certain saint in the Catholic Calendar—by a Franciscan scholar named Luke Wadding in the 17th century (though it was said to have been informally celebrated long before than anyway). St. Patrick, who lived around the 4th to 5th century, was the saint seen as most responsible for converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He was actually a Roman Briton (i.e. a Roman born in Britain), rather than an ethnic Irish, and the name Patrick is itself either an Anglo version of the Latin word Patricius (nobleman) or a version of the Gaelic name Pádraic, which has the same meaning. As an interesting aside, this is where the term “Paddy” comes from when referring to “St. Paddy’s” day (in a less humorous note, police cars where criminals were thrown in were known as Paddy wagons because of the association of the Irish with crime back in the day; indeed, half of those arrested in New York City were Irish…and ironically, half the cops were often Irish too XD). The famous claim made of St. Patrick, which is of him exorcising snakes from the island, is actually believed to be an allegory to him overcoming paganism, since serpents were a symbol of Irish Druidism prevalent before the Christian era. There is also a theory that St. Patrick’s Day is actually named after another and earlier Christian missionary, Palladius, who become one of Ireland’s first bishop. The “two Patricks” theory is still debated, not that most people care anymore, now that St. Paddy’s Day has become far more festive and secular than since its original inception (isn’t that how it goes for every western holiday now anyway?). Indeed, a more interesting and unique development of this holiday is its evolution into a nationalist celebration; Paddy’s Day is linked more to the Irish culture and people than anything (but drinking of course, even though it’s an extension of Irish culture ). This is pretty much the main reason it’s celebrated outside Ireland, having followed the large Irish populations in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and even Argentina. The rest of us non-Irish pretty much tagged along to celebrate with them. The history of this nationalist convergence is actually interesting, and relates to another one of St. Patrick’s feats. Part of his success in converting the Irish was achieved with the use of the native three-leafed shamrock, which he used as a symbol of the holy trinity. Not only did it get the point across easier it seems, but it made the shamrock a symbol of both St. Patrick and his holiday. Eventually, in the face of their long struggle against British imperialism, the Irish used the shamrock as a symbol of their Catholic faith, which itself was a part of their Irish identity. The ‘wearing of the green’ as it was known, soon translated into a symbol of the Irish nation in general and is the origin of the tradition of having to wear something green on St. Patricks day (the pinching punishment for not doing so was supposedly done by Irishmen displeased with their fellows for not showing more ethno-religious pride). Of course it helps that Ireland is in fact so green anyway and that green is associated with anything Irish, period. It was no surprise that the Irish made St. Patrick’s Day an official national and religious holiday around 1903, less than 20 years before their independence. The US, host to the largest Irish population in the world (close to 40 million, not including mixed ancestry), unsurprisingly has some of the largest celebrations. It’s first ever Paddy’s Day Parade was organized by the Irish Society of Boston in 1731, before it was even independent! As for the drinking aspect of the holiday…well not only is alcohol consumption a big part of Irish culture (even on holidays), but apparently it may be related to the Roman holiday Bacchanalia, a celebration to Bacchus, the god of wine and ecstasy; his holiday supposedly fell a day or two before. Regardless, just be merry and have a great (and safe) Paddy’s Day everyone! Fun Fact: The original color for St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always green but traditionally was blue (known as St. Patrick’s Day Blue). The conversion to green occurred gradually (as illustrated before) and was said to have finally been done with around the 1750s. Quote: <i>St. Patrick... one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself all under the guise of acting Irish.</i> -Charles M. Madigan, editor of the Chicago Tribune Proverb: Irish What is seldom, is beautiful.