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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

On March 17th we’re all a wee bit Irish, but do you know what the celebration is all about? And why would a tax blog discuss St. Patrick’s Day?

The legend of St. Patrick says he was born at the close of the fourth century to Roman parents living in Britain. As a teenager, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and put into slavery. Six long years of captivity caused Patrick to become devout in his Christian beliefs. He escaped to his home in Britain but soon had a vision telling him to return to Ireland to share the gospel. He lived out his days in his adopted country, spreading Christianity throughout the lands inhabited by Druids. Patrick died on March 17th of 461, and the day named in his honor has become a favorite holiday.

Patrick is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. However, the slithering reptiles haven’t inhabited the island since the last ice age, so snakes are probably a metaphor for evil. Because legend says Patrick used its three leaves to illustrate the Holy Trinity, the shamrock has become a symbol of the holiday. Wearing green to mark the occasion results from colors associated with the 17th century Irish rebellion against the British; Patrick’s official color is actually a shade of blue. However, we like to believe leprechauns can’t see anyone wearing green, so pinching those not so adorned reminds them they are visible to the little men. No one is quite sure how leprechauns became associated specifically with St. Patrick’s Day, but Irish folklore is full of tales of the mischievous little shoemakers who hide their pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Any human lucky enough to catch one becomes the owner of the gold. If you find a pot of gold, be sure to talk to us about the tax implications!

Irish immigrants brought St. Patrick’s Day festivities to America in the mid-1800s as they tried to escape the Great Famine. Boston was the site of the first American St. Patrick’s Day celebration, but the first parade was held in New York, which is still home to one of the holiday’s largest parties. In Chicago, forty tons of green dye are dumped into the Chicago River to turn the water a festive shade. Historically, St. Patrick’s Day was acknowledged as a break from Lenten fasting, which has morphed into the modern practice of drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage.

So what’s the tax connection? Recent scholarship from Cambridge University suggests much of the legend surrounding St Patrick is inaccurate. Using some of his own writings, scholars suggest Patrick was not abducted, but rather chose to flee to Ireland to escape taking over his father’s role as Decurion in his town. And what is a Decurion? It’s a heredity administrative position that essentially served as the local tax collector. At that time, the position of Decurion was considered “undesirable and dangerous” (see study cited). When Patrick’s father abandoned the role to become a cleric, Patrick would have been expected to take over the job. Fleeing to Ireland would certainly have gotten him out of it!

While we can’t help you find a pot of gold, at Down South we can make sure your tax return takes advantage of all the credits and deductions you are entitled to. Give us a call to set your appointment and may the Luck o’ the Irish be with you!


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