Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle because of the lush green color of the landscape. Its mild, moist climate is ideal for vegetation, and a type of clover called shamrock grows everywhere. This three-leafed plant has become a symbol of Irish heritage, and many people wear green sprigs of shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day.
This holiday honors Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and is celebrated by Americans of Irish descent and many other nationalities with parades, dinners, Irish jigs, and songs. There are more people of Irish descent in the United States than there are in Ireland!
Saint Patrick spent most of his life teaching the people of Ireland to read and write while converting them to Christianity. He tried to combine old customs with new meanings. As time went on, he was loved more and more, and when he died, all of Ireland went into mourning. Thousands of mourners came to his funeral from long distances, carrying so many candles and torches that it is said that everything was as light as day. The sun refused to set for 12 days and nights but stood perfectly still so as not to bring a new day without him. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the anniversary of his death in A.D. 461.
As the Roman Empire collapsed and Europe was overrun by barbarians, Saint Patrick’s teachings kept learning alive in Ireland, and Ireland became known as the “Island of Saints and Scholars.” Saint Patrick is credited with almost single-handedly preserving the fundamentals of civilization for the Western world, and it is through him that Ireland has its centuries-old tradition of scholarship and literature.