St Patrick’s Day is an annual feast day to celebrate the Irish patron saint, Saint Patrick. He is supposed to have driven the snakes from Ireland, but this is myth whereas the true story is equally remarkable.
Born in Roman Britain, enslaved by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave, six years in captivity before escaping and returning to Britain. Studied with priests in Gaul and then returned as a missionary to pagan Britain and Ireland.
His name has been variously written down as:
- Latin: Patricius;
- Primitive Irish: Qatrikias
- Old Irish: Cothraige or Coithrige
- Middle Irish: Pátraic
- Irish: Pádraig
- British: Patrikios
- Old Welsh: Patric
- Middle Welsh: Padric
- Welsh: Padrig
- Old English: Patric
However, in answer to the question ‘what is St Patrick’s Day we need to look beyond mere origins. Patrick is Ireland’s patron Saint and so celebration of St Patrick is as much a celebration of Irish identity as any thing else.
Unsurprisingly then, in places such as the USA where the descendents of millions of Irish emigrants now live, St Patrick’s day is a bigger deal than it is back in the old homeland.
St Patrick’s day parades, Guinness drinking, green decorations and shamrocks aplenty are seen wherever people of Irish decent are found.
London also has a thriving St Patrick’s day celebration culture, officially sanctioned and promoted by the mayor of London.