What we do know is that he was born to wealthy parents in Britain, not Ireland, most likely near the end of the 4th century CE (AD to us older folks.) Even though his father was a Christian deacon, there is no evidence that he came from a deeply religious family.
When Irish raiders attacked his family's estate when Patrick was 16, he was taken prisoner and brought to Ireland and was in captivity for the next 6 years. While he was in captivity, he was put to work as a shepheard away from people. This is when he really turned to religion and became a devout Christian.
After the 6 years of captivity, he escaped and made his way back to Britain. After getting back, he began 15 years of religious training. At the end of the training, he was made an ordained priest, and sent back to Ireland with 2 missions. 1 to cater to the Christians that were already there, and the second to convert as many non-Christian Irish to Christianity as he could. Since he was already familiar with the language and culture, he chose to incorporate those native traditions into Irish Christianity. (He wasn't the first to incorporate "pagan" beliefs into Christianity to convert people.)
His death is believed to be 17 March 461 CE
The St. Patrick feast day has been celebrated in Ireland since about the 9th or 10th century. However, the first St. Patrick Day parade took place 17 March 1762 in New York City. It was organized by Irish soldiers serving in the British military to reconnect with their Irish roots and to connect with fellow Irish soldiers. The holiday and parades grew from there.
After the Great Potato Famine in 1845, almost 1 million poor, uneducated Irish immigrated to the US in an attempt to escape starvation. Despised for having unfamiliar accents and different religious beliefs, they had trouble finding jobs, and were portrayed in political cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
There are several traditions surrounding St. Patrick's Day. Some that cross borders, and others that are particular to a city.
Parades have already been touched on, and is one tradition that crosses borders. Multiple cities in the US have St. Patrick's Day parades. A parade is even part of Dublin's St. Patrick's Festival. At least in my part of the US, wearing green on St. Patrick's Day and pinching people who don't wear green that day is a tradition. Others include drinking Guinness (an Irish beer) and eating corned beef and cabbage.
Perhaps the most famous city specific tradition is Chicago's tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green
Some of the symbols on the day are Shamrocks, leprechauns.
|Some of the places where the holiday is celebrated|