Saint Patrick's Day, a religious holiday celebrated each year on March 17, takes its name from Saint Patrick, a popular patron saint of Ireland. Today, Saint Patrick's Day is primarily a secular celebration of Irish culture.
Since 1991, either Congress or the president has proclaimed the month of March to be Irish-American Heritage Month because of St. Patrick's Day.
The boy who would become Saint Patrick was born in Britain in 385 A.D. As a youth, he didn't believe in God. That changed when he was sold into slavery in Ireland when he was 16.
Patrick traveled all over Ireland, starting monasteries and setting up schools and churches. He was quite successful at converting those he met to Christianity.
In total, he served in Ireland for 30 years. He died on March 17, 461 A.D., which is why Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17 each year.
A common Irish legend holds that Saint Patrick performed a divine miracle by driving all the snakes out of Ireland forever. While it is true that you won't find snakes in Ireland today, scholars believe that snakes never existed in Ireland in the first place.
One of the most recognizable symbols of Saint Patrick's Day is the shamrock. According to legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the trinity to the Irish pagans. He is said to have used the shamrock in his sermons to show how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could exist as three separate elements of the same entity.
Those who celebrate Saint Patrick's Day often wear shamrocks — called "the wearing of the green" after a popular Irish song of the same name — to show their love of or support for Irish culture.
Historians also believe green came to be associated with Saint Patrick's Day because it takes place just a few days before the start of spring, when green plants begin to emerge.
Saint Patrick's Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1737 in Boston, which is home to many Irish immigrants. Today, Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated across the country with parades and various traditions.
For example, Chicago dyes its river green every Saint Patrick's Day! You'll also find many people enjoying traditional Irish dishes, such as soda bread and corned beef and cabbage.