Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day beyond Irish borders
The life and legacy of Ireland’s patron saint.

One month before St. Patrick’s Day, I biked the cobblestone streets of Kilkenny with a tour group and learned the story of the patron saint of Ireland. About halfway through our tour, with the sun peeking out from the clouds, we stopped at St. Patrick’s Church. It was there, in the heart of the medieval, picturesque town, where we got to discover the true meaning behind the cultural and religious holiday of March 17.

“The first thing to know about St. Patrick is that he wasn’t Irish,” our tour guide, Jason, told us. “In the fifth century, he was taken prisoner and brought to Ireland from Great Britain, where he spent several years in captivity. He was just 16 years old.”

I looked up at the church and tried to imagine what it would be like to be stripped of everything that held meaning. During his time in captivity, Patrick claimed he had a miracle dream where a voice—which he believed to be God’s—told him he had to leave Ireland. After about six years of being held prisoner, Patrick managed to escape. “After Patrick left Ireland and returned to Great Britain, he had another religious dream,” Jason said. “This one, contrary to his first dream, told him why he needed to return.”

And so he did. Patrick took extensive religious training so that he could return to Ireland and bring meaning back to a country that had wronged him. St. Patrick’s ability to incorporate Irish culture into Christian lessons was how he built the country into one of tradition and practice. And while much of his legacy is tied to religion, St. Patrick is also heavily admired for his focus on Irish celebration. 

March 17 is known as St. Patrick’s feast day (presumably the date of his death in 461 A.D.). Now, we celebrate March 17 as both a religious and cultural holiday to commemorate Ireland’s patron saint and the legacy he built for Irish culture. 

But St. Patrick’s Day isn’t only celebrated in Ireland. Some of the biggest celebrations occur beyond Irish borders in countries like the US, Canada, and Australia, to name a few. When many Irish people immigrated to these countries in the 1900s, March 17 became the pivotal day to celebrate their heritage and homeland roots. 

In larger cities like Toronto, New York, Montréal, and Boston, seas of green take to the streets for parades and festivals to celebrate the Irish through entertainment, music, and other amenities.

While I’m not Irish, I left Ireland with a newfound appreciation for their patron saint. And despite the myths and mysteries behind his life story, one thing remains certain: March 17 is a celebration. So, regardless of whether you have ties to Christianity, Ireland, or neither, for this one day, we become Irish. On March 17, we get to dance the jig, sing Irish folk music, and honour the meaning that St. Patrick brought back for the people who needed it most. 

Staff Writer (Volume 50) — Keira is in her third year at UTM, working toward a double major in Communications, Culture, Information, and Technology (CCIT) and Professional Writing and Communications (PWC). She is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, music lover, nature enthusiast, and above all, a health and wellness advocate who cares deeply about the world around her. When she’s not working or studying, you’ll find her reading her favourite lit-fic novels in the park or booking spontaneous trips around the world.


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