by Tom Stratton

St. Paddy!

Cheap Guinness, big daft hats, and loads and loads of green. What e...
St. Paddy!
Cheap Guinness, big daft hats, and loads and loads of green. What else could it be but Paddy’s Day?! Long the staple of the student and the older boozer alike, it’s become not a celebration of the saint or of Ireland itself, but a celebration of Guinness and whiskey (note the ‘e’ – whiskey is Irish, whisky is Scottish). I’m in no way complaining about this: I like to celebrate Guinness and whiskey (and whisky) most days, but thinking about it I realised I didn’t really know what it was supposed to be about… so I did some digging.
Every 17th March pubs around the world get ready to celebrate the life of someone who I’m guessing most people don’t know that much about. Especially the fact that the historical St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. Born in the fifth century, probably in England, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates as a teen and held captive for six years. Being a slave must give you plenty of time to think about things and it just so happens Patrick started thinking about God and that sort of thing.
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After six years he started hearing voices which he assumed was God (and not insanity due to being captive for SIX years) telling him to run away and a ship would take him home. Turns out the voices weren’t entirely wrong as he made a run for it and managed to blag his way on to a ship back to England. The ship was at a port about 200 miles away. I bet God didn’t tell him that part.
Anyway when he finally got back to England he was now a full on man of God and started telling everyone about it. He even went back to Ireland to tell the Irish all about it. To be honest if I was kidnapped by pirates and held in captivity the last place I’d ever go was wherever my captors took me too. Patrick however went straight back there such was his absolute faith and love of God. Either that or a massive case of Stockholm syndrome.  
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It is now supposed he died and was mostly forgotten on March 17th 461 A.D. and, like many before and after him, the legend grew some time later. A couple of centuries later people started to write about all of Patrick’s feats. In reality I’m pretty sure all he did was shout about God and get kidnapped (this happened another two times) but time can distort memories. Especially memories of a couple of hundred years ago.
As these legends grew, people started to pay attention and by the seventh century he was already revered as the patron saint of Ireland. He also became a lot more interesting than a shouty captive God-head as people started to make up some mad stories about him fasting in mountains and all sorts of stuff. The most famous of these being that Patrick got rid of all the snakes in Ireland. Quite a feat considering Ireland isn’t that small and the fact that there’s no record of any snakes ever living in Ireland.
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Anyway it wouldn’t be until the 18th-19th centuries that people really started to celebrate St. Patricks day. Mass Irish immigration to America meant that the celebrations really started in America: a non-Irishman celebrated in America is why we now have worldwide Paddy’s Day celebrations.
Whatever the reason was and why it got so massive doesn’t really matter anyway. We get to drink loads of Guinness and whiskey. Plus we all know Shane Macgowan is the true patron saint of Ireland.