The Saint Patrick’s Day will come soon on March 17th and you’re probably feeling at least a vague sense of obligation like you should probably go out and have a pint of Guinness and half-heartedly nod your head to another playlist featuring nothing but Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. Why, though? What is it about the 17th of March that translates into green top hats, leprechauns, the hurling sticks, the shamrocks in your pint?
“Why, it’s the feast of St. Patrick, boyo! Lá Fhéile Pádraig! Of course, we drink on feast days!”
Yeah, but what if we told you the story of St. Patrick, why he wasn’t actually a Saint, and why we think that’s the real reason we drink?
Oh and to get around the censors and also because it’s fun, we’re replacing the word f*ck with feck.
Who the Heck St. Patrick Was
To get our theory straight, we have to start way back. The young lad that would eventually come to be known as the most Irish of Irish wasn’t Irish at all, he was actually born to a Romano-British family in 387 AD. Probably. That was nearly 1700 years ago, guys, we’re working off a lot of hearsay, folk tradition and myth, but if this were a historically-minded article, your hand would fall off before you could scroll all the way down. So lets at least get the folk history straight, right?
So the Patron Saint of the Irish, the man who gave his name to a whole people, was born in the land of Ireland’s second-least-favorite people (after themselves), Britain. He had absolutely nothing interesting happen to him until he was 16 when things got interesting as feck real quick.
SUDDENLY IRISH PIRATES
See, he was walking along the beach when a gang of hardcore whiskey-swilling Irish pirates rocked the feck up onto the beach, took one look at his wee pretty head and were like “him. We want him.”
We presume he was on a beach and that the raiders were in a boat because somehow it’s less dramatic to imagine them just sort of lugging him through the British countryside for a few days before reaching the coast. Have you ever taken a stroll in the British countryside? It’s mostly grey, wet and muddy, not a very dramatic setting for the start of the epic journey that would result in little wussy Pat powering up and returning to the Emerald Isle later as Saint fecking Patrick, Patron Saint of the hard-drinking hard-fighting Irish, thank you very much. Spoilers. Anyway.
So the pirates bundled him into the boat and rode him all the way back to Ireland, where he found himself in the perfect internship program for his future career as a priest; goat herding.
Why Herding Goats Makes You a Saint
They probably thought they were forcing him to go through the most grueling, miserable, demeaning, unfulfilling, unpleasant job in the world, and they were right. Goats suck. There’s a reason the devil has a goat head. But think about it; the pagan Irish pirates forced him to spend years managing a flock of stinking, unruly, ungrateful, thick-headed simpletons with literal fecking Satan heads. God couldn’t have hoped for a better Saint if he’d planned the kidnapping himself. Which is why we suspect he did.
Anyway, he spent years there, kicking a flock of mini-Satans in the butt every day, and through prayer and self-reflection and sleeping under the clear Irish skies and stuff, he developed a pretty close relationship with God. We imagine it went like this.
Pat: “God, why have you forsaken me on this barren and merciless island full of savages?”
God: “You have a great calling, my boy. You will one day return to bring these simpletons onto the path of righteousness, and they shall sing your name in thanks.”
Pat: “But Lord, they cannot sing—“
God: “I’m talking about the Irish, you dolt.”
Pat Gets Away
So after years and years of being a goatherd slave to a bunch of Irish pagans, he finally got the message from God that now was the time for his escape. So he ditched the herd of mini-Satans to ruin the ornamental hedgerows of his captors (probably) and legged it for the coast. 200 miles away. If you weren’t convinced that wussy little 16-year old Pat had already buffed up considerably in his years as a goatherd, maybe the fact that he evaded a gang of bloodthirsty pagans over 200 miles of open Irish countryside will convince you.
When he reached the coast, he came upon a boat, as God had promised him. Wikipedia says that he had trouble convincing the captain to let him escape back to England with them. Somehow we doubt that we’re fairly certain that his only trouble was in keeping the entire crew back with one foot while he slowly choked the captain into submission. You don’t feck with goatherds, they spend every day wrestling Satan’s little four-footed spawn.
So they finally let him on the boat, and he gets back to his family in England after years of adventures and fist-bumping God at every opportunity. God once sent him a herd of wild boar to save him and his crew from starvation. Note; God sent a herd of live wild boar to feed him. Not pigeons, or a copse of rabbits or something. Wild boar. So God was like “Here, Pat, I heard you’re starving, have a gang of angry horned pigs that will gut you as soon as look at you,” and Pat was like “Thank ye Lord for delivering us this feast of flesh I will have to murder with my bare, starving hands” and he meant it.
The Return of Patrick
So after getting back to his family and settling into his righteous Christian superhero ways, he understandably gets bored. He’s in his mid-twenties by this point, and he’s spent most of his life on the knife-edge of danger, living the life of a saintly goat herd in the face of adversity, with God patting (hah!) him on the back and saying he’s doing a good job. He never forgot his time in captivity, and so when God sent him a vision of an Irish guy called Victorious, begging Pat to go back and “walk among them” (read: kick some pagan ass), he packed his bags and headed out for revenge.
And so he landed back on the Emerald Isle, beautiful Éire itself, and he did the worst thing he could think of.
He converted everyone he met to Christianity and set the stage for a series of horrendous civil wars that, in some ways, continue to this day.
But he didn’t live to see that. He did a bunch of other awesome things, like chase all the snakes out of Ireland with a stick (unless that was a metaphor for paganism but we prefer to think he actually did that), which is pretty awesome but we’re reaching the 1,500-word mark here and you guys must be tired of reading this by now, before finally dying on the 17th of March.
Why We Drink on the 17th of March
So that’s why the Feast of Saint Patrick is on the 17th of March. He died that day. Probably. Again, a lot of this is a myth and not history. And since it’s a feast day, we feast. Not sure about the green top hats and stuff, that’s probably the result of some tourist agency’s ad campaign back in the early 1960s or something, but at least that explains the drinking, right?
Well, we have another theory. See, back in those days, you became a Saint when the local church decided that a particularly holy person who had recently died could be worshipped as such. Nowadays, though, a Pope has to canonize a person before they can be considered a Saint. And St. Patrick, after a life of awful trials and superlative triumphs, had the bad fecking luck to die just around when the new rules were coming into place. And so St. Patrick was never canonized by a Pope.
That’s right. He’s not a saint. It’s not Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s just fecking Patrick’s Day. After all that trouble, after converting a pagan country into one of the world’s most hardcore Catholic strongholds, he didn’t get to be a Saint.
And that, dear friends, is why we really drink on Saint Patrick’s Day.