Ahh, Drink-Patrick's Day. A day where Americans go out wearing all manner of ridiculous green-colored costumes and drink themselves into oblivion in honor of Ireland's patron saint, Patrick.
Patricius, as he was originally known, was actually a Romanized Briton who was kidnapped at sixteen years old by Irish raiders and sold into slavery to an Irish king. As a slave, Patricius was made to watch over the king's flocks out in the countryside-- cold, underfed and without clothing or human contact for about 6 years. He prayed everyday that he might return to his homeland until one night he had vision. God, who Patricius hadn't really believed in when he lived in Britain, spoke to him telling him that his, "...hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look, your ship is ready." Patricius escaped captivity, walked about 200 miles to the sea where he convinced merchant sailors to allow him to board their ship which was bound for the main continent.
It still took Patricius a few more years to reach Britain and his family. But time passed, and while he was living with his family he began receiving visions from God again in the form of voices of the Irish people begging him to return to Ireland. As much as he tried to ignore the visions they persisted until finally Patricius journeyed to Gaul (France) to begin a theological education. He returned to Ireland as Saint Patrick, spreading the Gospel and eventually converting hundreds of pagans to Christianity.
Just like every holiday here in America, it seems like we take so little time to actually celebrate the reason for the holiday. We twist it around and when we're done it ends up a poor reflection of what it used to be. Veterans Day and Memorial Day--barbeques, blowout sales at department stores, drinking; Cinco de Mayo*--drinking; Christmas (probably the worst example)--shopping ourselves into a stupor; St. Patrick's Day**--drinking; Fourth of July--fireworks, drinking. The list goes on.
So the next time St. Patrick's Day comes around, before you don your soft, puffy, green-striped top hat and emerald glasses...before you wipe your greasy, chicken-wing-covered fingers on your beer stained "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" shirt...before you even put anything green on...before you guzzle that 10th green tinted brew...before you start a fight with someone over nothing at the bar, please take at least two seconds to remember St. Patrick, the struggles he endured and the spiritual work that he accomplished when no one else would.
Be sure to read How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. *Cinco de Mayo, first of all, is a minor Mexican holiday and despite popular belief, is not the day Mexico gained it's independence. May 5th is the day that the outnumbered Mexican forces defeated the highly trained French military at the Battle of Puebla. **It is a myth that St. Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland.