The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. However, all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes. Water has surrounded Ireland since the end of the last glacial period, preventing snakes from slithering over; before that, it was blanketed in ice and too chilly for the cold-blooded creatures.
Scholars believe the snake story is an allegory for St Patrick’s eradication of pagan ideology.
The snake was the symbol of the Celts and their spiritual elite, the Druids - who inhabited the island of Ireland long before the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century AD. When Patrick arrived, the only “pesky and dangerous creatures” that St Patrick wished to cast away were the native Celts.
Since snakes often represent evil in literature, "when Patrick drives the snakes out of Ireland, it is symbolically saying he drove the old, evil, pagan ways out of Ireland [and] brought in a new age," said classics professor Philip Freeman of Luther College in Iowa.
An Image depicting St Patrick casting the snakes into the sea.
St Patrick features in many stories in the Irish oral tradition and there are many customs connected with his feast day. Over the centuries, these traditions have been given new layers of meaning – the symbolic resonance of the St Patrick figure stretches from that of Christianity’s arrival in Ireland to an identity that encompasses everything Irish. (the above from ancient-origins.net)
Today is also my mother's birthday. Her nickname was Pat. Happy St. Pat's Day! as our family would irreverently say. My mom would be 102 today. Every year she'd receive dozens of birthday/Happy St. Patrick's Day cards from all over the globe. (She never ate green cake or drank green beer.) Happily being the center of attention, she really sparkled on this day. You are missed, Mom.
My father-in-law turns 88 today, too. Happy Birthday! I'm lucky to have found such a lovely family as my husband's, 'Dad' is one big reason why.
Some say St. Patrick's Day usurps the much older celebration of Spring/equinox/the goddess Ostara/Eostre, some say no, that's Easter that usurps the ancient pagan return of fertility to the land celebration. Others say there is little evidence of specifically any Eostre celebration traditionally held in Spring (pre-19th C....although bonfire festivals in Spring are ancient...) to be usurped by either.
Some say four leaf clovers bring you luck.
Some are known to wear orange today and loathe the very name of St. Patrick....
Personally, I just like a good Irish blessing; there are a few, one of my favorites includes tea (this blessing also has an alternate last line, I prefer this one):
May you always have...
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And your heart is at peace.
Whatever your take on this day....