St Patrick's Day 2016: What do we know about the patron saint of Ireland?

Everything you need to know about the biggest day in the Irish calendar

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, whose feast day is celebrated every 17 March.

Little is known about the figure, but according to Irish folklore, he was probably born in Wales around 387 before being kidnapped and stolen by Irish pirates during a raid to be an enslaved pig and sheep herder in Ireland. Legend has it that he was 14-years-old when he was stolen and taken to Slemish Mountain, where he remained until he turned 20 and was finally returned home by some kind sailors. 

A few years after returning to his homeland, he had a divine vision in which he felt God call him to be the ‘Voice of Ireland’. He subsequently returned to the country as a free man and spread his Christian faith around the pagan country, converting thousands and establishing many churches in the process.

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According to folklore, St Patrick was stolen by Irish pirates and taken to Mount Slemish, pictured, to tend sheep and pigs

He apparently used the three leaves contained in shamrock flowers as a metaphor for the holy trinity throughout his teaching. To this day, the shamrock is one of the symbols most associated with Ireland.

In the present day, Ireland celebrates Saint Patrick every 17 March. Many Catholics attend mass and sing hymns in Gaelic or wear sprigs of shamrocks on their lapels. During the day, many towns and cities hold parades celebrating Irish culture, with flamboyant floats, live music and dancers. Others mark the day with a celebratory glass of Guinness. Some travel to Mount Slemish to see where Patrick was enslaved as a sheep herder and climb to the top of the mountain.

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A marching band celebrates at a London parade for Saint Patrick's Day

This year is a particularly historic one as Ireland celebrates the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a key event in the country’s history. 

New York and Dublin hold the biggest parades in the world. Half a million people are expected to line the streets for the Dublin parade, while around 150,000 revellers will attend the New York display. 

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