On St. Patrick's Day, Ireland's most famous saint inspires many to wear green, march in parades and hunt for shamrocks but do you know the legend behind the holiday? Here are 8 facts you probably didn't know about the saint and why he is celebrated around the world.
St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, was actually born in, what was then, Old Kilpatrick, Scotland.
When he was fourteen, Patrick was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to tend and herd sheep. He managed to escape at age 20 after he dreamt God told him to leave Ireland by going to the coast. He was able to persuade a group of sailors to bring him back to Britain where he reunited with his family.
Patrick had many dreams that spurred his decisions in life. In one dream, he heard the people of Ireland, who practiced paganism at the time, calling out for him to walk among them. He began his priesthood studies shortly after having that vision.
Though Ireland was made up of mostly Druids and pagans when Patrick first came to the country, the saint was able to convert entire kingdoms to Christianity over the four decades he spent there.
The shamrock is a symbol we often associate with St. Patrick's Day and many mistake it as the symbol of Ireland but it's really connected to St. Patrick, who used the clover to explain the concept of the Trinity to non-believers.
Though you might get a pinch if you're not wearing the country's signature green, the color used to represent the famous saint is actually blue. Several pieces of art depicting the saint show Patrick sporting blue vestments. King Henry VIII once used a blue flag with an Irish harp to represent Ireland and even now, blue can be found on country flags, coats-of-arms and sports jerseys.
There are quite a few legends surrounding the popular saint, including one that claimed Patrick was able to drive all the snakes out of Ireland. Though it's true that the reptiles don't inhabit the island, this is probably due to the cool climate, not St. Patrick. Scholars believe the term "snakes" in ancient texts may refer to pagan ritual beliefs and practices, not the animals themselves.
Though much about Patrick's life is speculation, we're pretty sure his real name wasn't Patrick. According to Irish legend, his birth name was actually Maewyn Succat, or in Latin, Magonus Succetus. He took on the name of Patrick when he became a priest.
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