Skip to content

Word Wisdom: St. Patrick

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser.
Word Wisdom

On Friday, March 17 people all over the world will don green, eat corned beef and cabbage, and drink green beer, it is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick's Day has evolved from a religious observance into a secular celebration of Irish heritage in the form of festivals and parades, as well as more than a few pub crawls.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. At his birth in 385 AD (although the date is uncertain), he was given the name Maewyn Succat. Patrick was born into a wealthy family in Roman controlled Britain. Kidnapped by Irish raiders when a teenager, he spent 6 years in Ireland, during which time Patrick became a Christian. He escaped captivity, returned to Britain, studied to become a Roman Catholic priest. After ordination he requested to go back to Ireland to help grow the Church there. According to tradition Patrick died on March 17th. Although he is known as Saint Patrick, he has never been formally canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.

The name Patrick came into the English language after the Norman conquest of 1066. It is derived from the Latin word patricus meaning son of a noble father, part of the Roman aristocracy, a patrician. So, during his lifetime St. Patrick would never have been called Patrick. The only name that he used for himself in his own writings is Patricius. This equates to Patraic in Old Irish, Padraig in Irish today.

Ireland and surrounding areas have been commemorating Saint Patrick since the 10th century as a religious observance in remembrance of the saint. The feast day brings to mind St. Patrick as the missionary who expanded Christianity all over Ireland, the Apostle of Ireland.

Did St. Patrick banish snakes from Ireland? The absence of snakes in Ireland has been noted from as early as the third century, as post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. The legend probably alludes to the fight against evil, which is often symbolized by a snake in Biblical literature.

Legend credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people a shamrock, the three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the teaching of three persons in one God.

Did you know that 40 to 60 pounds of green dye are dumped in the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day? March 17th is the 3rd most popular drinking day in America. Cabbage shipments increase by 70% around St. Patrick’s Day. The amount of Guinness consumed on March 17th increases by over 800% each year.

In observance of the religious nature of St. Patrick’s Day Irish laws mandated pubs be closed on March 17th until the 1970s. Then in 1995 the Irish government began campaigning for bigger March 17 celebrations to increase tourism, and pubs became packed.

There are nicknames used for March 17th. St. Paddy’s Day is Irish based. Although some people find St. Paddy's Day inappropriate because, since the 18th century, Paddy has been used in England as a disparaging name for an Irishman, referring to a fit of temper. Another familiar name is St. Pat's Day, a common English nickname of Patrick.

St. Patty’s Day developed as a playful diminutive based on the masculine nickname Pat or as a misapprehension of the "d" in Paddy. However, the name Patty is generally understood to be the feminine form of Patricia. Perhaps reserve the use of Patty for ordering a sandwich with melted cheese or having a conversation with your friend Patricia.

Canadians celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in several ways. There is the annual Halifax St. Patrick’s Day Parade. One of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in North America has taken place in Montreal since 1824. The actual celebration dates to 1759 when the Irish soldiers of the Montreal Garrison observed St. Patrick’s Day in Canada. There are a variety of events for St. Patrick’s Day in Winnipeg. Toronto hosts the self-proclaimed ‘Canada’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day party.’ The Guinness SPD is a rowdy all-day bash that spans 45,000 square feet at the Rebel nightclub. The Original St. Patrick’s Day Road Race occurs in Calgary (this year on Sunday, March 12). You can buy a raffle ticket to win your weight in beer. CelticFest Vancouver is Western Canada’s biggest annual Celtic festival. It is a cultural celebration of the best of Celtic music, dance, spoken word as well as film, food, and fare, running from March 11 to March 18.

In whatever wat you choose to recognize March 17th, happy St. Patrick’s Day.

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to . Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks