Nowadays, St. Patrick’s Day is known as a day of revelry, represented by leprechauns, green attire, rollicking Irish music, and adult beverages. It’s become a day enjoyed by many, not just the Irish. But St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always celebrated this way. In fact, its history shows that many of the things associated with March 17th today have nothing at all to do with the story of St. Patrick. Let’s take a look at that story, plus some fun activities you and your homeschool students can enjoy this St. Patty’s Day!
The Story of St. Patrick
Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. Born in Britain in the 5th century, Patrick was 16 when he was taken prisoner by Irish raiders and transported to Ireland. After six years of working in solitude, during which he turned to faith and became a devout Christian, he was able to escape his captor and found passage back to Britain. However, Patrick eventually returned to Ireland, believing he was called upon by an angel to become a missionary. After joining the priesthood and being ordained a bishop, Patrick returned to Ireland in 433 where he converted the Irish to Christianity, making them “people of God.” He performed mass baptisms and confirmations in his tireless efforts to serve his Lord.
Patrick died on March 17, 461, and soon after, received the designation of “Saint.” By the end of the seventh century, he’d become a legendary figure. Among the many extraordinary feats St. Patrick may or may not have done are:
- driving Ireland’s snakes into the sea to their destruction (Ireland has always been snake-free, so this is most likely a metaphor for the cleansing of Ireland by chasing paganism from the island),
- raising 33 people from the dead,
- and praying for food for hungry sailors traveling by land through a desolate era–miraculously, a herd of swine appeared.
But perhaps the best-known story comes from St. Patrick explaining the concept of the Holy Trinity by using a shamrock, which became the well-recognized symbol of St. Patrick’s Day.
Why St. Patrick’s Day Is Celebrated the Way It Is
So, why do people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with parades, dancing, music, and pints of ale? March 17 in Ireland started as a holy day to celebrate the feast of St. Patrick, and it also falls within Lent, when many Catholics give up their vices. But this was a day to celebrate, so it was considered a one-day reprieve from Lent–and let’s just say that celebrants took full advantage of this lone day of freedom. Much food was eaten, many dances were danced, and several glasses were raised.
Many accounts have the first St. Patrick’s Day observation and celebration in America beginning as early as 1600. As more and more Irish emigrated to the United States over the next couple of centuries, these celebrations became a national phenomenon. Boston’s first official St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in Boston in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. In fact, New York’s 5th Avenue parade is the largest in the country today. Chicago’s first parade was held in 1862 and 100 years later, the city began dyeing the Chicago River green, making for an ultra-festive atmosphere! During the 1840s, the Irish reached Canada and Australia as the potato famine forced starving families off the Emerald Isle, bringing their St. Patty’s Day festivities with them. Today, the holiday is celebrated by millions, many of whom aren’t even Irish! After all, who wants to pass up the opportunity to sing, dance, eat, and drink green beer? But St. Patrick’s Day celebrations don’t need to be for adults only. Check out some fun St. Patty’s Day-inspired activities your kids can enjoy!
St. Patrick’s Day Activities
There are lots of fun (and free!) Irish-themed activities for younger kids to learn from and enjoy. Education.com has a huge variety from which parents and teachers can pick, many green and full of the luck o’ the Irish!
- Celtic letters: Let your little one practice some Irish penmanship with these beautiful downloadable Celtic letters.
- Shamrock necklaces: Rather than spend money on Irish accessories for St. Patty’s Day, you and your kids can create these pretty–and green–shamrock necklaces!
- Potato pancakes: St. Patrick’s Day just isn’t complete without some Irish food! So get your child in the kitchen to help you make some potato pancakes! Cooking is the perfect way to combine education and fun–with a delicious result at the end.
- Blarney Stone: Teach your child the history of the Blarney Stone by creating this cool keepsake!
- Leprechaun hat centerpiece: Your St. Patrick’s Day feast isn’t complete without an adorable leprechaun hat centerpiece holding some flowers at the center of your table.
- Shamrock milkshake: A yummy snack, this mint- and pistachio-flavored shamrock milkshake is fun to make with your child, and it can be easily modified to a vegan recipe if desired.
Now you know the history of St. Patrick’s Day and some fun ways to commemorate it. What are some of your favorite St. Patty’s traditions or activities? Share below in the comments!