Irish and non-Irish alike celebrate St. Patrick’s Day each March 17, but few understand the history of the holiday.
First of all, St. Patrick was born Maewyn Succat in fourth century Britain. The patron saint of Ireland wasn’t even Irish. Second, young Maewyn wasn’t even raised as a religious boy. The closest he got to church was Saturday night bingo. Not until teenage Maewyn was kidnapped by a marauding gang of Irish raiders and brought back to Ireland as a slave did he turn to God. While in slavery, Maewyn had a dream that he escaped and returned home to Britain. The next morning, he did just that. He traveled more than 200 miles back to his native land. But once he was home, he had another dream. In this dream, he returned to Ireland–not to avenge his wrongful enslavement–but to convert the pagans to Christianity.
After some self-doubt that perhaps his dreams had been created by the spoiled malted barley, hops and yeast he has been consuming for years, he chose to believe his visions. He immediately entered into the priesthood in preparation to convert pagan Ireland. Disappointed that St. Peter, St. Paul, P. Diddy and all of the other cool P names were taken, he settled on Patrick.
St. Patrick was stopped by Customs outside the gates of Ireland. The guard informed Patrick that he needed to answer three questions before he could enter.
Guard: What is your name?
Patrick: St. Patrick of Britain.
Guard: What is your quest?
Patrick: I seek to convert you pagans to Christianity.
Guard: What is your favorite color?
Patrick: (Seeing lush shamrocks and clover at his feet, Patrick blurted out…) Green!
It was years later that the Irish decided to make the entry questions more difficult. Allegedly, the questions were made so difficult that not even John F. Kennedy could gain entry into Ireland, forcing him to fly to Germany instead where he said of his second choice, “Ich bin ein Berliner!”
Once inside Ireland, St. Patrick went to work teaching the local people. Using a three-leaved shamrock, St. Patrick taught the basics: green beer, cabbage, and corn beef. His kindness was legendary. So his new mates wouldn’t risk injury stumbling home from the pub in the dark, he bought a large buggy to transport them all safely. This became known at the first Paddy Wagon. To keep his mates safe from being beaten by their wives for returning home drunk, Patrick taught his blokes some simple lying techniques. Many of those techniques are still in use today by the political descendants of those blokes.
In gratitude, the Irish people accepted Patrick. They entrusted him with their ancient Druid secrets, secrets such as the drink recipe for an Irish Car Bomb and how to catch a Leprechaun without hurting him. Legend has it that St. Patrick was given a first edition of “100 Ways to Cook a Potato So It Remains Tasteless.” If this were ever discovered it would be the last copy in existence, although all of the actual cooking tips have been passed down unbroken from generation to generation.
Now that you know the facts, raise your green beer in thanks to the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland and right into the bar stool next to you.