He was born in Britain (not Ireland, SHOCKER!) in the late 300s AD. His name at birth was Maewyn Succat, but he didn’t care for that so later in life he was known as Patricius. He had several aliases during his life: Magonus, Succetus, and Cothirthiacus. But Patrick just seemed to fit best.
Calpurnius, his father, was a deacon in the early Christian church, but Patrick wasn’t much of a believer himself. At age 16, he was captured by Irish pirates and enslaved for 6 years as a shepherd. That was when he chose to convert to Christianity. During this time of servitude, Patrick learned the Irish language and culture before making an attempt to escape back to Britain. Patrick wasn’t good at escaping sadly, because he was captured again. This time by the French. While he was held in France, he learned about monasticism before he was sent home to Britain.
He continued to study Christianity and claimed he had a vision that told him to bring Christianity to the Irish people, who were mostly pagan and druidic at the time. When Patrick and his preaching ways were not welcomed back in Ireland, he had to leave and land on some little islands off the coast. He began to gain followers there, and he eventually moved to the mainland to spread Christianity across Ireland for many years. During this time, Patrick baptized thousands of people (some say 100,000), ordained new church leaders, converted the sons of kings in the region, and helped in the formation of 300+ churches.
A popular legend tells of Patrick banishing all the snakes from Ireland, but there were never actually any snakes there to begin with. Silly, I know. It is also said that Patrick popularized the shamrock; he used it to teach the concept of the Holy Trinity. Patrick’s use of the shamrock may have helped him win a great deal of favor with the Irish.
St. Paddy’s Day started as a “Feast Day” that always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, March 17, 461 AD. to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. In the early 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the tradition over to America, and it was here that it started to become the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As it happens, St. Paddy’s Day is so popular, it’s thought to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival.
Wondering why wearing green is part of St. Patrick’s Day tradition? Irish soldiers, during the Irish Rebellion, wore green as they fought off the British in their trademark red. Until then, the color associated with St. Patrick and Feast Day was blue. Wearing green became a part of pop culture and is now commonplace to wear your best greens mid-March.