St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland but it’s more of a holy day honoring their patron saint.
St. Patrick was born around 385 A.D. in Roman Britain to aristocratic parents. At sixteen he was captured by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland and sold him into slavery. While there Patrick tended sheep, drew close to the Lord, and came to believe his captivity may have been part of God’s plan. He dreamt he was to free the Irish people from their druid beliefs and share the gospel of Christ with them. After six years, Patrick escaped and made his way back to Britain. God gave him another revelation; that he would one day return to Ireland as a missionary. After a brief time in England, he traveled to France where he entered the priesthood and remained for fifteen years. However, he never lost sight of his dream of returning to Ireland to spread “The Good News”. Around 431 A.D., Patrick was consecrated Bishop of the Irish and returned to the island of his captivity.
Patrick eventually convinced the Druids to abandon beliefs that kept them enslaved and convinced them to find freedom in Christ. He built up t
he church in Ireland, establishing monasteries, and organizing the land into dioceses. Patrick died March 17, 461 in Saul, County Down, Ireland where he is said to be buried.
Why is St Patrick’s Day such a big deal in our the United States with all the revelry and hundreds of parades?
Probably because almost 35 million Americans identify as having Irish heritage while the population of the entire island of Ireland is not even 8 million.
When did the Irish make their way to America?
There have been two major diasporas to American shores. The First Wave of Irish Immigration came between 1714 to 1750. Many Presbyterians who had emigrated to the northern part of Ireland from Scotland became known as Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish. They moved on to America to escape religious discrimination, rising rents and seeking land to own. Many of these educated, skilled workers, and farmers settled in New England while others traveled to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
The Year Without Summer, a novella in The Highlanders: A Smitten Historical Romance Collection https://www.amazon.com/Highlanders-Smitten-Historical-Romance-Collection/dp/1645260631/ref tells the story of a Highlander leaving Scotland during the clearances who traveled to Ireland and was forced off that land to emigrate to the United States in 1816.
The other significant diaspora occurred in the 1840s when the Irish potato
famine devastated Ireland. Up to two million starving Irish sailed to North America during the Famine departing from mainly Belfast, Dublin, and Londonderry. They sailed to the US and Canada, many in what came to be known as coffin ships. They settled mainly in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but some headed
westward. U.S. immigration records indicate that by 1850, the Irish made up 43 percent of the foreign-born population.
I’ve written a story (yet to be published) that takes place in 1847 during the famine. It’s about a woman and her daughter forced to leave Ulster Ireland seeking restored lives in America.
Our St. Patrick’s Day traditions include shamrocks, a traditional Irish meal, and possibly watching Riverdance or a movie about St. Patrick. How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?