First off, St. Patrick wasn't even Irish. He was born somewhere in Britain. (Mental note: delete the red hair; insert pasty complexion and bad teeth.) He was captured as a lad and hauled off to Ireland as a slave, where the loathsome pagans forced him to work as a shepherd. On a mountain. In ice, snow and rain.
Any jigging and beer drinking were probably done to escape frostbite.
Happily enough, God gave Patrick special escaping directions which he was able to use to get back to his family after six years.
Return to Ireland
Understandably, Patrick was grateful. He devoted himself to his faith, became a priest and eventually a bishop. Of course, his superiors could not send him to the sunny Mediterranean to convert the heathens there. They sent him back to Ireland. One can only imagine Patrick's joy.
But back he went, where he was met by a tribal chieftain whose idea of a welcome was to give him a good beheading. That Patrick not only escaped this, but managed to convert the bloodthirsty fellow to Christianity as well, is considered one of his most noteworthy deeds. And on he went for forty years, living in poverty, preaching and converting, and expecting to be killed or enslaved again any day. No snake-banishing. No pots of gold. No dirty limericks.
He died on March 17, 461.
St. Patrick's Day
Yep, you got that right. He died on March 17. So we're all celebrating the day of his death with parades and parties, green hats and green beer. One can't help but think that poor St. Patrick would be a bit dismayed. ("I dodged heathens with pointy sticks for forty years and this is what I get?")
So what's great about St. Patrick