Have you ever wondered why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 specifically?

As it turns out, Ireland’s national holiday, St. Patrick's Day, is celebrated on March 17 because that is the day Saint Patrick himself died.

The man who brought Christianity to Ireland is believed to have died in the small village of Saul in 461 AD, not far from the town of Downpatrick in Co Down where he is reputedly buried.

Supposedly, Patrick went to his eternal rest at the grand old age of 122! The Annals of the Four Masters recounted in death as follows:

"Patrick, son of Calphurn, son of Potaide, archbishop, first primate, and chief apostle of Ireland, whom Pope Celestine the First had sent to preach the Gospel and disseminate religion and piety among the Irish, was the person who separated them from the worship of idols and specters, who conquered and destroyed the idols which they had for worshipping; who had expelled demons and evil spirits from among them, and brought them from the darkness of sin and vice to the light of faith and good works, and who guided and conducted their souls from the gates of hell (to which they were going), to the gates of the kingdom of heaven.

"It was he that baptized and blessed the men, women, sons and daughters of Ireland, with their territories and tribes, both fresh waters and sea inlets. It was by him that many cells, monasteries, and churches were erected throughout Ireland; seven hundred churches was their number.

"It was by him that bishops, priests, and persons of every dignity were ordained; seven hundred bishops and three thousand priests was their number.

"He worked so many miracles and wonders, that the human mind is incapable of remembering or recording the amount of good which he did upon earth.

"When the time of St. Patrick's death approached, he received the Body of Christ from the hands of the holy Bishop Tassach, in the 122nd year of his age, and resigned his spirit to heaven."

The date was only officially enshrined in canon law as a holy day by the Vatican in 1631 and was supposedly first celebrated on American shores in 1737 when wealthy members of Boston’s Irish community threw a party to welcome newly arrived Irish immigrants.

Over the years, St. Patrick’s Day has grown from a solemn feast day when pubs shut in Ireland to the global celebration of Irish culture and heritage we know today.

H/T: Culturalheritageireland.ie

* Originally published in 2017. Updated in 2024.