Saint Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig, "the Day of the Festival of Patrick") is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on 17 March. It commemorates Saint Patrick (c. AD 387–461), the most commonly recognised of the patron saints of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church. Saint Patrick's Day was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century, and has gradually become a celebration of Irish culture in general.
The day is generally characterised by the attendance of church services, wearing of green attire
and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating, and drinking alcohol, which is often proscribed
during the rest of the season.
Saint Patrick's Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador and in Montserrat. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora, especially in places such as Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, among others. Today, St. Patrick's Day is probably the most widely celebrated saint's day in the world.
Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century. His father was a deacon
and his grandfather was a priest
in the Christian church. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders
and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.
In 432, he again said that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop
, to Christianise the Irish from their native polytheism
. Irish folklore
tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock
to explain the Christian doctrine
of the Trinity to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of evangelism
, he died on 17 March 461, and according to tradition, was buried at Downpatrick. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish church.