“There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish, and those who wish they were.” - St Patrick and St Patrick's Day

17 March famously is St Patrick’s Day, commemorating the alleged death of Ireland’s patron saint St Patrick on March 17th, 461 and an occasion to celebrate around the world with the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol lifted for the day.

“There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish, and those who wish they were.” (Anonymous)

St Patrick baptising Irish princesses, as imagined in 1904 by John Haaren

St Patrick himself was not an Irishman, but probably from Wales, a Romano-British, either Christian already when he was taken by Irish slavers around 400 CE, or, as other legends claim, a pagan who found solace in Christianity while he had to suffer the hardships of a shepherd in County Antrim. Who might have taught him the Scriptures in pagan Ireland is a matter not touched by the legend, since Patrick is usually supposed to have Christianised the place. His most famous feat besides that is the expulsion of the snakes, at first glance a rather manageable job since said reptiles were not native to Ireland since the last Ice Age, but the topic is metaphorical anyway and probably meant pagan customs, maybe even signifying the snake tattoos the druids wore, but then, St Patrick was always good for a metaphor as his explanation of the trinity by the help of the trifoliate shamrock shows.

Wearing the Green during the Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798

“The Irish folks were disappointed that the Parliament did not meet to-day, because it was St. Patrick’s Day; and the Mall was so full of crosses that I thought all the world was Irish.” Jonathan Swift noted in 1713, at a time, when the Irish had celebrated the saint’s feast day for about 100 years and was used, more or less, as an excuse for carousing, and green ribbons and “shamroges” were noticed by a visitor to County Armagh in 1680 on St Patrick’s Day, and Boston records the first such event in 1732 and New York 30 years later. The crosses disappeared from view after the Great War in an already well-established Irish diaspora all over the world, while the grim background of the “wearing of the green” and the “hanging of men and women” for displaying the selfsame article after the failed Irish Rebellion of 1798, at least according to the narrator in Dion Boucicault’s song during his meeting with Napper Tandy in France, is largely forgotten as well, on a day when everyone can be Irish from Argentina to South Korea.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s (1696 – 1770) 
imagination of St Patrick working miracles (ca 1750)