Why Christians should not celebrate St. Patrick's Day
Should true Christians celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Should they try to wear green on that day?
Each year, millions of people observe St. Patrick's Day, but thosewho call themselves Christians, should not.
This article will briefly discuss St. Patrick's Day, some of its customs, cite scripture, and explain some of why those of us who are Protestants should not observe it.
Background on Patrick
The World Book Encyclopedia reports:
PATRICK...SAINT (about 389-461)...is the patron of Ireland and a saint of the Roman Catholic Church...he came to be known as one who "found Ireland all heathen and left it all Christian." Saint Patrick founded over 300 churches...Many relics of this saint were held sacred for a thousand years, but some of them were destroyed by the Reformers (Patrick. World Book Encyclopedia, 50th Anniversary Edition, Volume 15. Chicago, 1966 p. 174).
Thus, St. Patrick's Day is in honor of one who is claimed to have turned Ireland Roman Catholic. Since we Protestants are not supporters of the Roman Catholic Church, a church that often uses wooden images and relics in its worship, we consider that it is not appropriate to observe its non-biblical holidays (see also Deuteronomy 12:3-4, 31). Even the early Protestant Reformers opposed venerations associated with Patrick. Should not non-Catholics not observe this day?
The Catholic Encyclopedia reports some additional, as well as disturbing, details about Patrick:
Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland...Pope St. Celestine I, who rendered immortal service to the Church by the overthrow of the Pelagian and Nestorian heresies, and by the imperishable wreath of honour decreed to the Blessed Virgin in the General Council of Ephesus, crowned his pontificate by an act of the most far-reaching consequences for the spread of Christianity and civilization, when he entrusted St. Patrick with the mission of gathering the Irish race into the one fold...
"St. Patrick's Breast-Plate", is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over Paganism. The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text:
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity...
St. Patrick proceeded through Gowran into Ossory; here he erected a church under the invocation of St. Martin, near the present city of Kilkenny, and enriched it with many precious relics which he had brought from Rome...
Many times in the day he armed himself with the sign of the Cross...
Far more ample, however, were the aspirations of the saint, and he resolved to persevere in fasting and prayer until the fullest measure of his petition was granted. Again and again the angel came to comfort him, announcing new concessions; but all these would not suffice. He would not relinquish his post on the mountain, or relax his penance, until all were granted. At length the message came that his prayers were heard:
· many souls would be free from the pains of purgatory through his intercession...and...
· greatest blessing of all, Patrick himself should be deputed to judge the whole Irish race on the last day.,
Such were the extraordinary favors which St. Patrick, with his wrestling with the Most High, his unceasing prayers, his unconquerable love of heavenly things, and his unremitting penitential deeds, obtained for the people whom he evangelized (Cardinal Moran, Patrick Francis. Transcribed by Mary Doorley. St. Patrick. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
We, who are Christians, do not consider that Patrick was an apostle. We do not consider that people should wear crosses. We do not believe that he has been chosen by God to judge the Irish race on judgment day.
Saint Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá 'le Pádraig or Lá Fhéile Pádraig), colloquially Paddy's Day or St. Patty's Day, is the feast day which annually celebrates Saint Patrick (373-493), the patron saint of Ireland, on March17, the day on which Saint Patrick died...It became a feast day in the universal church due to the influence of the Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding, as a member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary in the early part of the 17th century...
One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. This stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737, the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated, in Boston, Mass.
Today, people celebrate the day with parades, wearing green (Saint Patrick's Day. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
Not only do we not celebrate what "the universal church" observes, we do not accept that God is a trinity in the Greco-Roman sense. A three-leafed shamrock is what we in the USA call a three-leafed clover. The early church did not consider that God was a trinity like that, hence the observation of a holiday intended to celebrate one who used a green clover to mislead people about the nature of the Godhead would not be appropriate.
Although in Ireland wearing blue was at first common, green was used elsewhere (especially in the USA) and eventually became the color of the day even in Ireland. This is probably not just because Ireland is a green country with a green flag (though those are factors), but because of the stories associated with Patrick's the three-leafed shamrock and the trinity.
The History Channel reports:
In fact the first written mention of this story did not appear until nearly a thousand years after Patrick's death. The shamrock, which was also called the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.
So whether the green clover has intended to be a symbol of a non-existent trinity or a pagan symbol related to the rebirth of Spring, following the custom of wearing green on March 17th would not seem to be a biblically-wise idea.
St. Patrick's Day is Dangerous and Has Practices that the Apostles Condemned
Aside from its non-biblical origins, what else is wrong with it?
Well, it is a day for revelry and drunkenness.
And it is a day that driving becomes more dangerous: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk this Saint Patrick’s Day.
Suburban News – 8 March 2012
Like most holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day has become a popular time for people to celebrate with family and friends. However, due to the large numbers of drunk drivers, the day has also become a very dangerous one.
On Saint Patrick’s Day 2009, 37% of the drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher, according to statistics obtained from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Additional NHTSA statistics also disclosed that in 2009 there were 103 crash fatalities on Saint Patrick’s Day. Of that number, 47 people were killed in crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcyclist with a BAC of .08% or higher.
PR Web (press release) – 8 March 2012...
The Governor’s Highway Safety Program reported that state and local law enforcement officers conducted 2,618 sobriety checkpoints and dedicated patrols during a period from March 11-17.
The campaign netted a total of 32,579 traffic and criminal citations statewide. The total included 1,013 DWI charges. Out of that number, 123 charges involved drivers under age 21. Wake County had 94 DWI citations, the second highest number in the state.
SnoValley Star_ March 7, 2012
Officers in King County on routine and extra patrols arrested 310 people for DUI during the St. Patrick’s Day enforcement effort last year.
St. Patrick’s Day could be unlucky for impaired motorists. But getting drunk drivers off the road would be lucky for everyone else.
So, is this more dangerous driving day a day for real Christians to celebrate?
Notice what the Apostle Peter wrote:
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. (1 Peter 4:1-3)
Is not “St. Patrick’s Day” a time from revelry, drinking parties, and drunkenness? Is not that something that the Apostle Peter said real Christians would no longer participate in?
According to the Apostle Paul, such people will not be in the Kingdom of God:
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
The writings from the apostles should be enough to stop professors of Christ from participating in St. Patrick's Day revelries, but sadly most who profess Christ overlook much of what the Bible teaches about real Christian practices.
Another Non-Christian Custom
Although most probably consider that getting drunk is the biggest social problem associated with the day (other than its ties to idolatry), one particularly disgusting practice is that people who do not wear green on this day are subject to ridicule and harassment.
One such practice is chasing and pinching those who do not wear green on that day. And while some may consider that this type of persecution is only a harmless practice, it has caused distress and harm to many children over the years.
Notice the following:
If you don't wear green people pinch you constantly (St. Patrick's Day. P.J. J. Todd M. 3/16/07).
#1 St. Patrick's Day Priority - Avoid Being Pinched
Tradition Dictates Those Celebrating St. Patrick's Day Must Work Green Into Their Outfits . (PR Newswire. March 6, 2007).
It's that time again: the time to put on your best bright green suit, march down the streets of your town, parade yourself into your favorite local pub and show your Irish pride. Don't forget to pinch those who are not wearing green (Anderson, Rusty. Daily Staff Writer. It's not authentic just because it's green. Iowa State Daily, 03/08/07).
Although St. Patrick's Day was originally a religious celebration to honor St. Patrick, to us it has become much more. Our memories of the festivities consist of pinching those who don't wear green (Morgan, Holly. Daily Staff Writer. Holiday tradition changes from honoring a saint to honoring all things Irish. Iowa State Daily, 03/08/07).
Would that practice be one that Jesus would endorse? Did not Jesus object to those who held to tradition but ignored the weightier matters of the law? Notice:
Woe to you...For you...have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23, NKJV).
If not, how can any who consider themselves any type of Christian participate or allow their children to participate is such a non-loving, non-merciful practice, like pinching?
Yahoo Answers asked a question and received an interesting answer:
What is with the pinching thing on st. patricks day?
(Answer)...I don't know, but I really hate it, that's why I always wear green on that day.
I personally believe that this whole pinching thing is a less than subtle way to tell people that they should conform to non-biblical traditions.
Facts vs. Fables...
Irish Catholic historians relate that "traditionally… Saint Patrick has been credited with converting the entire Irish race from paganism in the very short period between 432 and 461… however, we have to admit that there were certainly Christians in Ireland before Patrick arrived… and that the saint worked as an evangelist only in part of the island [the north]" (Walsh and Bradley, p. 1). Irish writer Liam de Paor states that "Ireland was not converted by one man [Patrick]… it may be that Christianity reached the west country [of Britain] and the southern Irish sea virtually independent of the Roman system, at a very early date… centuries before Patrick" (Paor, pp. 21, 23). There are traditions that the Apostle James preached the gospel in Ireland before returning to Jerusalem, where he was martyred (see MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race, p. 103). The widely accepted notion that Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland is a fable—not a fact. Numerous historical sources state that the Apostles brought true Christianity to Ireland four centuries before Patrick! (Winnail D. Early Christianity in Europe's Western Isles. Tomorrow's World. Nov-Dec 2002.)
But what religious ideas did Patrick bring to Ireland after being trained in Gaul (France) and commissioned from Rome? Was it the Christianity taught by Jesus Christ and the Apostles? Here again the facts of history provide some surprising answers. The church Patrick established in Ireland "was Roman in character and organization" (A Short History of Ireland, Wallace, 1986, p. 18). In addition to pointing people to the person of Jesus, the Roman Church emphasized the observance of Sunday, Easter, and the veneration of the Cross (Fletcher, pp. 55, 171). Patrick’s church was a fervent promoter of monasticism and the veneration of saints and relics. To his credit, Patrick worked to build "a Christian culture, where slavery and human sacrifice became unthinkable, and warfare... diminished markedly," however, he had far less success in transforming the sexual mores of the Irish or their attraction to pagan customs (How The Irish Saved Civilization,Cahill, 1995, p. 148). It is noted that "the Irish never troubled themselves overmuch about eradicating pagan influences, which they tended to wink at and enjoy. The pagan festivals continued to be celebrated" (ibid. pp. 148–9). Historians acknowledge that the Christianity that emerges from Patrick’s efforts is a "characteristically Irish melange [mixture] of pagan and Christian" beliefs and practices (ibid.).
While recent folklore credits Patrick with converting the Irish to Christianity, numerous sources indicated that the apostles of Jesus Christ visited the "Isles of the West" over three centuries before Patrick arrived! MacManus writes that the early church historians Eusebius [about 300AD] and Nicephorus tell of the apostles Paul, Simon Zelotus and James visiting these islands. MacManus writes that, "Julian of Toledo says that the apostle James addressed a canonical letter from Ireland to the Jews in Spain" (MacManus, p. 104). Both the Bible and history indicate that the teachings of the church established by Jesus and the apostles differed significantly from the teachings of Patrick and his followers. Jesus and the apostles kept the Sabbath and the biblical Holy Days (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2; 18:4, 21). Edward Gibbon states the early Christians combined the Law of Moses with the teachings of Jesus Christ and that they abhorred idolatrous pagan festivities—especially the Saturnalia— our Christmas (see The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter 15). The Encyclopedia Britannica records "there is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers—they kept the 14th of Nisan" (see article: Easter, 11th ed.). The church established by Jesus Christ was not monastic, did not venerate crosses or relics and did not pray to saints. These were all innovations absorbed into Patrick’s church from pagan sources—between 350–450AD. (Winnail, D. Behind the Mists of Ireland. Tomorrow's World. Jan-Feb 2000).
Thus, we feel that what that Patrick did was not beneficial (there are stories that there was an original 'Patrick' who was faithful, but that is difficult to prove). However we feel that Jeremiah and others called of God were in Ireland well before Patrick.
What Where Some of the Original Christian Practices in Ireland?
While Patrick apparently compromised on some doctrines, notice the following:
There is in fact no historical evidence that Ninian, or Patrick, or Columba, or any of their contemporaries in Ireland, kept Sunday as a Sabbath.’ (Celtic Sabbath-Keeping Study No. 264, from Cherith Chronicle, April-June 1998, pp. 46-47).
Many Irish would be shocked to learn this, but the truth is that many of the Irish kept the Sabbath on Saturday until an English Queen forced them to accept Sunday. Noted theologian James Moffat reported:
It seems to have been customary in the Celtic churches of early times, in Ireland as well as Scotland, to keep Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, as a day of rest from labor, and Sunday, commemorative of the Lord's resurrection, as one of rejoicing, with exercises of public worship. In that case they obeyed the fourth commandment literally upon the seventh day of the week…
The queen insisted upon the single and strict observance of the Lord's Day. People and clergy alike submitted, but without entirely giving up their reverence for Saturday, which subsequently sank into a half-holy day preparatory for Sunday (Moffat , James Clement. The Church in Scotland: A History of Its Antecedents, it Conflicts, and Its Advocates, from the Earliest Recorded Times to the First Assembly of the Reformed Church. Published by Presbyterian Board of Education, 1882. Original from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Digitized Mar 13, 2008, p. 140).
The queen mentioned above was Margaret who died in 1093. Margaret was canonized a Roman Catholic saint in the year 1250 by Pope Innocent IV. Thus, once again political power was used to try to stop people from following the biblical practices of early Christianity.
True Christianity did come to the British Isles (including Ireland) prior to the Catholic visits. Interestingly, the Celtic/Keltic churches, around 600 A.D. claimed to have been descended from the church of the Ephesian (the apostolic and basically immediate post-apostolic church):
The Keltic Churches of Ireland, of Galloway, and of Iona were at one with the British Church. These claimed, like Southern Gaul and Spain, to have drawn their faith from the Apostolic See of Ephesus. Their liturgies, or such fragments as have come down to us, bear marks of belonging to the Oriental family of liturgies. (Dawson W. The Keltic Church and English Christianity. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (New Series), 1884, p. 377 doi:10.2307/3677978 )
Did you know that even according to The Catholic Encyclopedia that some of the Irish used to maintain the biblical practice of foot washing. Notice:
The Feet Washing. The form here is similar to that in the Gallicanum, the Bobbio, and the Stowe: "Ego te lavo pedes. Sicut D.N.J.C. fecit discipulis suis, tu facias hospitibus et peregrenis ut habeas vitam aeternam". This ceremony is only found in Gaul, Spain, and Ireland. At the Council of Elvira in 305 an order was made that it should be performed by clerks and not by priests. This limitation, of which the wording is quite clear, has been unaccountably interpreted to mean that it was then forbidden altogether (Jenner H. Transcribed by Geoffrey K. Mondello, Ph.D. The Gallican Rite. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).
There are many practices that the Irish and others had that they have since lost. And part of it is because many spend more time celebrating St. Patrick's Day than they do looking into their own history and the history of the true Church.
St. Patrick's Day is a Roman Catholic holiday to honor a Roman Catholic saint, who upon orders by a Roman Pope, spread Roman Catholic doctrines all over Ireland.
The apostles specifically wrote that the type of drinking parties and revelries that are intergral to the celebration of many for St. Patrick's Day are not something that one would not participate in once they became a real Christian.
It is quite presumptuous, as well as wrong, for Patrick to conclude that God will use him on the last day to judge all the Irish race. This suggests to me, at least, that he was delusional. Why would non-Catholics wish to be part of this delusion?
The stories of St. Patrick lead to a misunderstanding of what Christianity is and the nature of the Godhead. It also is highly deceiving for the Irish as they will not be judged by a Roman Catholic saint named Patrick.
For those and all the related reasons, we Protestant Christians should not intentionally wear green on St. Patrick's Day, do not pinch others, nor do we intentionally observe other celebrations related to Patrick on that day.