For many people, St. Patrick’s Day means green beer and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts. It is a holiday that has been embraced equally between those with Irish heritage and those without. Never miss a chance to celebrate, right?Ask the average reveler about the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day and you will likely get answers that involve leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, and the color green. Press for deeper answers, however, and you could be met with silence. Few people know the history of St. Patrick’s Day. Nine-year-old Ella Larson (an aspiring writer) was asked to research the history of holiday and Patrick himself. Her findings reveal a tradition that is about much more than just green beer. In her own words:

Patrick was just a little boy at first like anyone growing up in England. He went to church and played with kids, but he never believed in all the religion stuff he was being taught. He just thought of it as a really popular or famous thick storybook.

When Patrick was a teen, he was kidnapped and brought to the really green land of Ireland, where he worked as a sheep herder. As the months passed, he worked and worked and soon found his way to God. One day God sent him a strict message to go back to France, so he felt he had to go. In France, he studied at a monastery.

Years later, Patrick went back to Ireland as a missionary. He taught people about God by using the three leaves of the shamrock to symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Legend also says that St. Patrick put the curse of God on poisonous snakes in Ireland and drove them all into the sea.

St. Patrick as a missionary in Ireland for more than 20 years. He died March 17 of 461 AD. Although Patrick always wore the color blue, St. Patrick’s Day is symbolized with the color green because of Ireland’s green lands and because the shamrock is green.

The shamrock has been a symbol in Irish culture for many centuries. In addition to its use by St. Patrick, it was a symbol by Irish Volunteers in the era of Grattan’s Parliament in the 1770s. It is considered emblematic of Irish pride. The number three is also considered Ireland’s lucky number. It is believed that everything good in Ireland comes in threes.

In addition to the shamrock, another popular symbol associated with St. Patrick’s Day is the leprechaun. Although the most famous leprechaun is possibly Lucky from Lucky Charms cereal, the leprechaun actually goes back several centuries in Irish folklore.

It is believed that the leprechaun is a short, aloof, gruff, and tricky character that possesses a pot of gold. Leprechauns pass their time making shoes. Legend has it that a leprechaun has never been caught. If you do happen to catch one, make sure you don’t take your eyes off of it or it will disappear.

No St. Patrick’s Day is complete without a Guinness beer or a shot of Irish whiskey. For those that don’t indulge in the spirits, you can celebrate with a plate of Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, Beef Stew, or Irish Soda Bread.

Whether you embrace your Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day or just enjoy the opportunity to celebrate, be sure to toast to good health (Slainte) or bless your companions with Dia dhuit, or God Be with You.

By Jamee Larson and Ella Larson