History of Saint Patrick’s Day – La storia della festa di San Patrizio

La festa di san Patrizio è una festa di origine cristiana che si celebra il 17 marzo di ogni anno in onore di san Patrizio, patrono dell’Irlanda.

St Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things in Ireland

The Story of Saint Patrick

Born in Wales to wealthy parents at the end of the 4th century, at the tender age of 16, young Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders and whisked across the Irish Sea, where he spent the next six years in captivity working as a lonely shepherd. His religion was his solace, and so he became a devout Christian.

After six years, Patrick heard God’s voice telling him it was time to leave Ireland, so he escaped from his captors and made his way back home. Here, he had another vision from an angel who told him he should go back to preach Christianity to the Irish. After 14 years studying to be a priest, Patrick returned to Ireland where he built churches and spread the Christian faith for the next 30 years until his death on March 17th, 460AD.

St. Patrick is said to be buried in Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. Since his death, March 17th has become the day set aside for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide. A must-see for travellers, The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, County Down is an award-winning visitor centre dedicated to telling the story of St Patrick, and explores the full truth behind his amazing Christian legacy using interactive exhibitions and Imax presentations.

Down Cathedral was built on the ancient hill of Down in the 12th century, and has become a place of pilgrimage for over 1500 years. People from across the globe travel to Down Cathedral to leave wreaths on the massive granite stone that marks St. Patrick’s Grave. Traditionally, emigrants leaving Ireland took a handful of the ‘old sod’ with them from the grave to remind them of Ireland.

Behind the myths

Did St. Patrick really banish snakes from Ireland, how did he select the simple shamrock as his emblem and why does the colour green symbolise Ireland and the Irish across the world?

Behind the myths of St Patrick

First, let’s tackle the snakes. Apart from our modern-day zoos, it’s true that there are no snakes slithering around the green isle. But this has little to do with St. Patrick and probably more to do with the fact that there have never been any indigenous snakes in Ireland. Driving the snakes from Ireland was most likely symbolic of putting an end to pagan practices, which disappeared from Ireland in the centuries after St. Patrick introduced the seeds of Christianity.

Why do people wear green?

With 10 times the population of Ireland in the US claiming Irish ancestry, one in four Britons doing the same, and countless more in other countries around the world, it seems that people wishing to become ‘Irish for the day’ have opted for the green of the Irish flag to express their Irishness. In fact, in the US, it’s not uncommon to spot folks sporting hand-drawn shamrocks on their cheeks with streaks of green running through their hair. Some cities like Chicago go all out and dye the entire Chicago River green just to mark the big day!

What about the Shamrock?

St. Patrick used this simple green herb to explain the concept of The Holy Trinity – The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit – and how they could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

And here’s something you mightn’t know…

The Irish didn’t always look so kindly on donning the colour green. Irish folklore considered the colour unlucky as it was the favourite shade of the Good People – leprechauns. Those who wore too much of the colour – especially children – could be stolen away. Some cynics may tell you there are no such things as leprechauns, but there are those who beg to differ. True believers will swear that if you take a stroll along a quiet country lane in Ireland, you can actually hear the mischievous leprechauns giggling by the side of the road.


wealthy – ricco
at the tender age of 16 – quando aveva 16 anni
prisoner – prigioniero
raider – razziatore
to whisk – portare rapidamente
in captivity – in cattivitá
solace – conforto
devout – devoto
to escape from – fuggire
captor – carceriere
to preach – predicare
priest – prete
faith – fede
to be buried – essere sepolto
to set aside – mettere a parte
spiritual renewal – rinnovo spirituale
prayer – preghiera
award-winning – premiato
to be dedicated to – essere dedicato a 
ancient – antico
pilgrimage – pellegrinaggio
granite stone – granito
a handful of – un pugnetto di
to banish – bandire
shamrock – trifoglio
to tackle – placcare
apart from – a parte
slithering – strisciare
indigenous snake – serpent indigeno
pagan – pagano
to disappear – smarrire
to claim – richiedere
ancestry – origini
countless – innumerevole
to opt for – scegliere da fare
uncommon – infrequene
to spot – scoprire, individuare
streak – striscia
herb – erba
to exist – esistere
separate elements – elementi separati
entity – entitá
follower – seguente
custom – abitudine, tradizione
to don – indossare
to beg – pregare
to differ – dissentire
to swear – giurare
to take a stroll – fare una passeggiata
mischievous – birichino, monello
to giggle – ridacchiare

Choose the correct word to fill the sentences.

1 An idea brought a __________________________ smile to her lips.

a) calm
b) mischievous
c) beauty

2 Much as he wanted to talk to Carmen, he _________________ a ride afterward.

a) chose for
b) go for
c) opted for

3 In his beautiful villa he sought to ________________ political and financial anxieties from his mind.

a) disappear
b) banish
c) vanish

4 She wore a ______________________ in honor of her Irish ancestry.

a) ribbon
b) boots
c) shamrock

5 At the swimming pool, they have __________________- a lane which is only for people who can swim very quickly.

a) set aside
b) put off
c) make up

6 I had complete _______________________ that what my parents did was right.

a) believe
b) faith
c) truth

(key: 1-b, 2-c, 3-b, 4-c, 5-a, 6-b)


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