posted 2012-03-21 22:44:48

St. Patrick the Butcher

On the Origins of the Popular Holiday

Sean Messina

Contributing Writer

Most people consider St. Patrick’s Day a time for celebrating their Irish heritage—a sort of a Ethno-Cultural pride event similar to the Puerto Rican day parade. Some say that the holiday main- tains this value in spite of the trouble that drunken revelers cause every year. But what do you really know about St. Patrick?

St. Patrick is one of the most famous Roman Catholic preachers in Ireland’s long history under Catholicism. Perhaps most famously, as the legend goes, he “rid the snakes from Ireland.” But what snakes? Ireland is too cold and too damp most of the year to support reptilian life. There are not now, nor have there ever been snakes in Ireland, since before the last Ice Age. The snakes of the legend were not reptiles, but rather “demons,” as deemed by the Catholic Church. These demons included pagans, druids, Jews, and an assortment of other religious groups that were competing with Christianity in Ireland at the time.

St. Patrick was a missionary who left his home in Britain to convert the native Irish people to Christianity and is considered one of the key people responsible for the population’s widespread conversion. Faced with opposition from many pagan clans, St. Patrick helped instigate tribal warfare in an attempt to crush opposition and clear the way for more conversions.

What St. Patrick’s Day is celebrating, in essence, is the subjugation and forced conversion of an entire country of former pagans (most notably the druids). Following the all-too-common Christian tradition of creating or moving Christian holidays to replace old pagan ones (all Biblical references place Jesus’ birth in the spring, but the Catholic Church placed Christmas in December to coincide with the pagan Romans’ winter solstice celebrations), the Christians in Ireland placed St. Patrick’s day during the spring equinox celebrations that the druids called “Ostara”, which was to celebrate the rebirth of nature.

Thus the holiday, at its root, is a testament to the very worst of Irish culture, and Western culture as a whole. The holiday has been secularized; today people of all backgrounds celebrate, even if it’s only an excuse to get drunk and go out. But the holiday was created to immortalize a man and his actions: at root, St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday of religious intolerance and the triumph of faith and force over reason and choice.