By Kathy Bolano, Communications Intern
Saint Patrick’s Day is a Catholic feast day in honor of the patron saint of Ireland. Traditionally, the Irish observe the religious feast day with Mass in the morning and celebrations in the afternoon. Since Saint Patrick Day falls in the Lenten season, prohibitions against eating meat were lifted for this day in order for the traditional meal of Irish bacon (not corned beef, which was started in the United States as a substitute for Irish bacon) and cabbage. Although this holiday has been celebrated in Ireland for over 1,000 years, the modern versions of celebration of Irish heritage that we know was actually founded in the United States by Irish immigrants who wanted to reconnect with their roots. Today, this tribute to the priest who converted the Emerald Isle to Christianity, is celebrated all over the world with the biggest celebrations in the USA, Canada and Australia.
Not many people realize that Saint Patrick was not originally Irish, but a Roman Brit from the early fourth century. The story goes that he was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders and held captive in Ireland for six years before he managed to escape back to Britain. During his captivity, he turned to his Christian beliefs and faith for solace. Once he returned home, he studied and was ordained a priest. Around 432 AD, he returned to Ireland to spread the Christian doctrine, and was ultimately very successful. There are reports of Saint Patrick baptizing 12,000 people in a single day near Killala, and Ireland was completely Christianized within 200 years of Saint Patrick’s return to the Isle.
The Niagara Foundation would like to celebrate with the Irish community and tribute it’s religious roots. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!