March is an exciting time of year. College basketball is in full swing with March Madness, baseball comes back from the offseason for spring training, the weather starts to turn from the winter cold to spring warmth. Another joy of March, celebrated all over the world is Saint Patrick’s Day. Now-a-days people celebrate by attending parades, throwing parties and imbibing in a few drinks (or a few too many).

Speaking of that, Topeka’s celebration this weekend is being hampered a bit by the weather. The children’s carnival has been cancelled, but the parade and other festivities are still a go. Please check the Topeka Irish Fest website for the most accurate information. The celebration will include around a 2-hour parade with festivities afterward. This year could be the biggest Irish Fest yet with an Irish sing along, 5k fun run and walk, chasing a leprechaun, beer garden, Irish food and Irish music. The celebration will start at 8:00 a.m. with Mass at the Mater Dei church and breakfast being served as well. The parade starts at noon with festivities before and after the parade. For more information on Irish Fest click here.

The modern way of celebrating differs greatly from the early intentions of Saint Patrick’s Day, which was originally established as a Christian holiday. Let’s take a closer look at who Saint Patrick was and the origins of Saint Patrick’s Day.

Though the dates vary, it is said that Saint Patrick was born in the 4th century in Roman controlled Britain to a wealthy family. Both his father and grandfather were involved in their church, his father as a deacon and his grandfather a priest. When Saint Patrick was 16-years-old he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland. For six years, he was held as a slave and made to work as a shepherd. During this time, it is said that he found God and was called into ministry. He fled Ireland and went back home to Britain, where he went on to become a priest.

After becoming a priest, Saint Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. At this period in history the Irish were mainly worshipped many gods, most based on nature.. Saint Patrick had great success converting them to Christianity and legend says  he was so successful that they made the allegory of him driving all of the “snakes” from Ireland. In reality Ireland never had snakes but people saw his success converting people  to Christianity as him driving out evil and bringing God in. Another part of the legend says he used the 3 leaf clover to explain the holy trinity, this is one reason we associate the color green and clovers with Saint Patrick’s Day.

Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Saints Day by the Catholic Church in the early 1600s. March 17, the day of his death, was chosen as a day to honor Saint Patrick for introducing Christianity to Ireland. Originally, the day was celebrated by parades, banquets with Irish music and church service. During the 1700s, the church lifted Lent restrictions for Saint Patrick’s Day and this is when the custom of drinking and eating large meals began. Many of these customs have made their way to the today’s celebration, with cities around the world organizing parades and other festivities to honor the saint. Each culture has its own unique way of celebrating.