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Last Updated: Friday, 16 March 2007, 16:14 GMT
Revellers 'unaware of St Patrick'
St Patrick's Day crowd in Dublin
Millions of people around the world celebrate St Patrick's Day
Almost two-thirds of people celebrating St Patrick's Day have no idea who the priest was, a survey claims.

Guinness sales rise dramatically every year on 17 March as people across the world mark the event.

But its true meaning has been forgotten - or never learnt - by many, according to the Manchester Irish Festival.

Organisers quizzed 2,000 people taking part in its festival parade but only 40% knew of the Christian missionary, who is the patron saint of Ireland.

Massive event

Manchester Irish Festival treasurer Patrick Marmion said: "People these days tend to celebrate St Patrick's Day with a massive party.

"The results found that the majority of Irish revellers believed St Patrick's Day meant wearing the Shamrock, sampling the Guinness and modelling the seasons must-have novelty hat.

"It has turned into an event where people go out and catch up with friends for a few drinks.

"In Ireland itself, the majority of people would take the opportunity to go to Mass - but also find time to have a few Guinness."

Teenage slave

Folklore tells how the priest, who was eventually elevated to the post of bishop, drove snakes out of Ireland.

The story is thought to symbolise his role in the conversion of the population to Christianity.

St Patrick is traditionally associated with the Shamrock plant, which he used to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity.

The date of 17 March is thought to be the anniversary of his death.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain and was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland when he was 16.

He lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family and entering the church, as his father and grandfather had before him.

St Patrick later returned to Ireland as a missionary, where he spread the word of Christianity, and by the Eighth Century he had become the patron saint of Ireland.

St Patrick remembered in Sandy Row
15 Mar 07 |  Northern Ireland
Thousands flock to Irish parade
11 Mar 07 |  Manchester


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