OneGreatFamily Blog

Go Back
  • Happy Saint Patrick's Day from OneGreatFamily

    Saint Patrick's Day, now celebrated in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, is an unusual blend of Christian and pagan customs, and a celebration of the venerated Catholic saint and missionary, Patrick.

    Patrick was born in Wales in 385. When he was sixteen, he was taken from his home and sold into servitude in Ireland, where he spent six years working as a shepherd. During this time, he became a devout Christian. Upon escaping from slavery, he went to Gaul, where he studied Christian doctrine for fifteen years and was eventually ordained to the Catholic priesthood. He subsequently returned to Ireland as a missionary.

    Contrary to popular belief, Patrick did not introduce Christianity to Ireland. There were already Christians living in Ireland, but they were a very small minority, with most of the indigenous Irish population following Celtic-pagan beliefs. Having already lived among the common Irish people for six years, Patrick was ideally suited to bring Christianity to Ireland on a large scale.

    In his missionary efforts, Patrick used his knowledge of Irish culture and pagan belief to explain Christianity in terms that the people would understand. The shamrock, for instance, was already an important symbol to the people, signifying spring and rebirth. Patrick employed the shamrock to represent the Trinity: three separate pieces all part of a whole. Patrick's newly-won converts adopted the shamrock as the symbol of their Christianity and wore it on their clothes; later this transformed into the custom of wearing green to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day.

    Another prevalent Celtic symbol was fire. The Celts used bonfires to honor their gods, so Patrick adopted this custom into the Catholic celebration of Easter, and early Irish Christians celebrated the holy day with fires and revelry. Because the Irish pagans also worshiped the sun, he superimposed an orb over the cross to create a new icon of the Irish Catholic faith. This emblem is now recognized as the Celtic cross.

    One common myth about Patrick is that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Actually, there were never very many snakes in Ireland to begin with. This legend comes from an incident that is purely symbolic: Patrick stood on a hilltop (which now bears his name), held up his wooden staff, and "banished the snakes" from Ireland. The "banishing of the snakes" represented the eradication of pagan doctrines from Ireland. Within two centuries, Patrick's vision had been realized, and Christianity had triumphed.

    Patrick died near present-day Dublin on 17 March 461. He was canonized by the Church, and the day commemorating his death is now a holy day of religious observation for Catholics in Ireland. Today Saint Patrick's day has become a secular holiday as well, and a celebration of all things Irish. Superstitions of leprechauns stem from Celtic beliefs in fairies, small magical people given over to mischief and trickery. Another Irish idiosyncrasy that has become well-known is that of the Blarney Stone. The ritual of kissing the stone, hoping to tap into its magical qualities and receive the gift of eloquent speech, has been performed by millions of people. This kind of pagan practice is hardly new; special stones and landmarks existed all over the ancient world, everywhere from the fertility rock at Giza to the oracle at Delphi to the spring of youth and vitality in Tuscany. It was through this kind of hybridism that Christian missionary efforts among the Celtic people were so successful, and through the Christianization of Ireland that Saint Patrick's legacy lives on.

    Full story

    Comments (0)

Ancestor Search

Enter Ancestor's Last Name:
Advanced Search
See what information we have in our database of over 190 million unique entries. Browse Alphabetically
  • Photos
  • Biographies
  • Histories
  • Country Origin
  • Alternate Spellings
  • Number of Generations
“...One person can't possibly do all of the work alone. They need help to speed up the work...The only way to do this is with your wonderful service...”
—Jeff Bagley
More Success Stories

Watch Demo

Use the buttons below to navigate through all four demos.

Previous Restart Next

Demo: Introduction

Learn More