Today, March 17th, is St. Patrick’s Day!
Every year, thousands of people celebrate the Irish patron saint, but what do you really know about him?
3 myths and legends of St Patrick
St Patrick banishes snakes from Ireland
This is one of the best known St Patrick legends. The story goes that St Patrick had subjected himself to a 40-day fast on the top of the mountain now known as Croagh Patrick. As he came down after finishing his fast, he saw snakes gathering in front of him.
Perhaps the great man was in a bad mood from his fasting because, angered by the snakes’ look of evil and menace, he chased them into the sea and banished them forever. From that day forward, there were no snakes to be found in Ireland.
Science says the absence of snakes in Ireland is down to Ice Age. The theory is that snakes started to migrate northwards from southern Europe as the last Ice Age ended and temperatures rose.
St Patrick creates the Celtic Cross
While preaching to the ancient Celts, St Patrick is said to have tried to make Christianity blend into their culture whenever possible. The story is that he saw that the Celts liked circular patterns and decided to blend those patterns with the Christian cross. The idea was that the Cross of the new faith would be more palatable to the Celts if it incorporated symbols from their own culture.
It’s a good story but unlikely to be true. The cross shape was popular with the Celts long before St Patrick. It was used to symbolise north, south, east and west… and also earth, fire, air and water.
St Patrick, shamrocks and the Holy Trinity
The concept of the Holy Trinity states that there is only one God but that God is made up of the God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.
Legend has it that the pagan people St Patrick was trying to convert just couldn’t understand this seemingly contradictory idea that God was both one and three at the same time. St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock as a way of explaining the mystery to them. The shamrock was a single plant made up three leaves, each leaf represent one facet of God.
This is another St Patrick story that is likely to originated with Irish monks. The first known reference to it, according to the Oxford English dictionary, is 1726.
If you’ve never been to an Irish parade, here are some of our favourite St Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world. Which is your favourite?