The most famous Irishman was actually the son of a Roman official born and bred in South Wales. The legend goes that he was captured by Picts and sold as a slave in Ireland. He escaped to Gaul, where he became a priest and is credited with bringing Christianity to western Europe.
Many countries celebrate St Patrick’s Day on 17th March with displays of shamrocks, leprechauns, harps and green beer (except in Ireland itself, where it has until recently been observed as a religious festival). Parades are held in Argentina, America, Australia, the UK, Canada, Japan, Korea, China, South Africa and many more. Rivers are dyed green (though not in Ireland).
The leprechaun in Irish folklore is a fairy shoemaker, whose name comes from the Irish leith ‘half’ and brog ‘shoe’. He is usually depicted as a little bearded man. Writer WB Yeats described him as a solitary creature who enjoys playing practical jokes and when he is up to anything unusually mischievous, he leaps on to a wall and spins, balancing himself on the point of the hat with his heels in the air.
Why do we see shamrocks, harps and leprechauns on St Patrick’s Day? Did St Patrick grow shamrocks, play the harp or know a few leprechauns? Probably not, these are just emblems associated with Irish culture.