A day celebrating the Irish Saint responsible for driving the snakes out of Ireland…right? Errr, not really…at all. For starters, Saint Patrick wasn’t even actually Irish. Rather, he was a British aristocrat that was kidnapped during his teenage years and sent to Ireland to work as a slave for 6 years. Like a lot of people in horrid situations he turned to religion and became a devout Christian during his captivity. Eventually he escaped Ireland and returned to Britain. He was then hit with another full-on religious experience, claiming an angel visited him in his dreams to bestow on him the quest of returning to Ireland as a missionary (because going back to the place you were held against your will for numerous years is a splendid and normal idea). His training took over 15 years to complete and upon completion he travelled back to Ireland to attempt to force christianity upon the Irish (there were already some Christians there, but they were the minority).
As for driving out the snakes that never actually lived in Ireland? Snakes often represent evil in literature (the garden of Eden, for example, which resulted in the world having to suffer eternal evil because of a talking reptile) and so the driving out of snakes is suspected to symbolically represent the driving out of the evil religion (the previous paganism of Ireland) to make room for the good (christianity). The popular shamrock is also symbolic – it is said Saint Patrick attempted to explain the holy trinity (the father, the son and the holy spirit) by using the three-leafed shamrock, with the individual leaves being separate but part of the same thing. This however is probably also a myth spread after Saint Patrick’s death in 460A.D.
And someone I know with a Catholic upbringing. I’m trusting she knows what she’s talking about.