Ireland is fondly known as the Emerald Isle, and it is certainly very green and always seems to be raining when I'm there! It has been associated with the color green for centuries, and shamrocks, the national flower of Ireland, have been worn on St Patrick's Day since the late 17th century. The word shamrock comes from the Irish word seamróg, which means small clover, and legend has it that Patrick used the three leaves of the trefoil plant as a metaphor, to explain the three parts of the trinity to his Christian converts. It is a popular myth that Patrick wore green robes, but this is extremely unlikely.
There is also a story that Patrick banished all the snakes in Ireland by driving them into the sea. But there were almost certainly never any snakes in Ireland in the first place, and this myth probably symbolizes his driving out pagan practices in favor of Christianity.
So, what does St Patrick's Day mean to Irish people today? According to Edna Barth, "For most Irish people in Ireland the day has little to do with religion at all. St. Patrick's Day church services are followed by parades and parties, the latter being the best attended. The festivities are marked by Irish music, songs, and dances."
John Nagle agrees: "Like many other forms of carnival, St. Patrick's Day is a feast day, a break from Lent in which adherents are allowed to temporarily abandon rigorous fasting by indulging in the forbidden. Since alcohol is often proscribed during Lent the copious consumption of alcohol is seen as an integral part of St. Patrick's Day." Sounds good to me, although along with other English people I don't celebrate it.
Left: Black Rhinestone Shamrock Brooch, LovesVintageDelights Right: St Patricks Day Earrings, RoughMagicHolidays
But please please please, NEVER call him Patty. Patty is a girl's name in Ireland, and is short for Patricia, not Patrick. My Irish friends and family living in Dublin, Cork and Kerry - several of whom are named Paddy - get very upset indeed if St Patrick is referred to as Patty! The correct nickname for Patrick is either Paddy, which derives from the Irish Pádraig, or Pat. So, feel free to call him St Patrick, St Pat, or St Paddy if you like, but NEVER EVER St Patty!