Other than avoiding a few painful pinches throughout the day, do you know why people wear green on March 17? It all started with a guy named Patrick.

photo courtesy of Quentin Rey, unsplash.com

Kelly and I are having a party with our kids and grands. We plan to don crazy hats, garishly green ties, and eat an everything green dinner (plus corned beef of course). We’ll top it off with pistachio ice cream and green frosted sugar cookies for dessert. Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Take this Saint Patty’s quiz to see if you can guess why it might be important.

Which of the following have anything to do with the real St. Patrick?

  • Green beer
  • Shamrocks
  • Leprechauns
  • Snakes

Where was he born?

  • Australia
  • Britain
  • Ireland
  • Africa

What did his dad and grandpa do?

  • They were builders
  • They were leprechauns
  • His dad was a teacher and his grandpa was a seaman
  • His dad was a deacon and his grandpa was a priest

What was his job in Ireland?

  • He was his dad’s apprentice
  • He worked on a ship
  • He sold green beer door to door
  • He watched sheep

How did he get to Ireland?

  • He wished on a four-leaf clover and was transported there by magic
  • He walked there from Scotland
  • He was kidnapped by Irish raiders and forced into slavery
  • The ship he was on wrecked and he washed ashore

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

  • Because he found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
  • Patrick found the first four-leaf clover
  • He was the leprechaun who invented Lucky Charms
  • He told the people of Ireland about the one true God

Why did he return to Ireland?

  • He fell in love with his master’s daughter and wanted to marry her
  • He was looking for the end of the rainbow and that’s where it ended
  • He went as a missionary
  • He wanted to sell more beer

Why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s?

  • It was Patrick’s favorite color
  • To attract leprechauns
  • Because the Irish loved nature so much
  • No one knows

Why are shamrocks a symbol of St. Patrick’s?

  • Patrick used the three leaves to explain the Trinity
  • Because three-leaf clovers are so rare
  • Because that’s what they use to make green beer
  • They only grow in Ireland

Did he drive the snakes out of Ireland?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know
  • Symbolically, yes

Answers:

Patrick was born in Britain around 387 A.D. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. When he was sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold as a slave to herd sheep. During those years his love for God grew. Eventually, he escaped and went back home where he studied, and became a bishop in the church. In 432 the Lord called him back to tell the people of Ireland about God.

Knowing how the people loved (and worshiped) nature, Patrick used creation to tell the Irish people about the One true God. He explained how He is three in one with the example of the shamrock. The shamrock has three leaves, but only one stem and God is three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—but only one God. Patrick encouraged the people to worship the Creator instead of creation.

There are a lot of stories about St. Patrick and it’s hard to know what is truth and what is fiction. One story says Patrick and a group of Christians lit a Paschal fire on Easter Eve which couldn’t be extinguished, despite the efforts and death threats of druid priests and King Laoghire. And is it true that there are no snakes in Ireland because Patrick drove them out? Perhaps figuratively. He taught them about God and established schools and churches, which drove away ignorance and superstition. So in a way Patrick’s message of God’s love, chased the serpent’s lies from Ireland.

Patrick died on March 17 around 461 A.D. and that is why we honor him on this day. As far as leprechauns, green beer, pots of gold, and the rest, I would say those are more of the serpent’s work to distract us from giving God praise for a life well lived.  

How did you do?

1-3 right = you’ve spent too much time drinking green beer

4-6 right = still looking for the pot of gold

7-8 right = almost found a four-leaf clover

9-10 right = you are going to have a great holiday!

No matter how you did on the quiz, I hope you had fun taking it, and maybe learned a thing or two. I also hope you and your family will not only wear green March 17, but also take time to thank God for this man who gave up everything, so the people who once enslaved him could find freedom in Christ. It’s a perfect day to celebrate our Christian heritage, while having a lot of fun.