Today we all celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without really knowing the history behind the Irish holiday. There are various little fun facts about how people celebrate the holiday, but here are some widely unknown facts about the man behind the religious holiday.
Saint Patrick’s Birth Name and Origin
Born in Great Britain as Maewyn Succat, he changed his name once he became a priest to Patrick from the Latin name Patricius, meaning “nobleman”. Succat was born to wealthy parents, his father was a Christian deacon, but it is rumored that the family was not religious, but rather his father used the status for the tax incentives.
Kidnapped and Enslaved as a Teen
At the age of sixteen, Maewyn was abducted by Niall, an Irish King, of the Nine Hostages and his marauders during their raid in Britain. As a slave; he spent most of his time outdoors as a shepherd. Roughly six years later, having changed his name by then, Patrick escaped Ireland by walking nearly 200 miles to the coast of Ireland to beg his way onto a boat headed back to Britain.
A Pagan Upbringing
Little is known about St. Patrick’s upbringing until his enslavement, but it is said that until his captivity and name change he was a Pagan. While still enslaved, he began having dreams or visions from God; the combination of these visions and his loneliness made him turn to Christianity and he began praying, leading him to a vision telling about his way out of Ireland. After his escape, he fled to Gaul to study Christianity in a monastery.
Not Snakes, But Pagans Chased Out
One of the lores surrounding St. Patrick’s Day is that he drove snakes out of Ireland, but snakes are not native to Ireland to begin with. His real mission was to convert Pagans of Ireland to Christianity, as was a popular mission in those times. Unlike most bishops of his time, St. Patrick was known to be vindictive and punished those who opposed him. Various stories are told of how St. Patrick, with the power of God behind him, killed many pagans who tried to resist the conversions and instilled a fear in the Pagans of “convert or die.”
Becoming a Holiday
Although St. Patrick died in 460 (or 461 as history is unclear), St. Patrick’s Day did not become a national holiday in Ireland until 1903, and the first parade in the country wasn’t until 1931. The first parade ever though was held in Boston in 1737. Before the holiday came about, the day of St. Patrick’s death was known as the Feast of Saint Patrick. The day was made an official Christian feast day in the seventeenth century though.