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Shamrocks, Blarney Stones & Ale, Oh My!
Legend has it that we celebrate the death of Saint Patrick because he banished all of the snakes out of Ireland but this was, in fact, a metaphor for turning all the country's Pagans into Christians. Maewyn Succat, which is his rumored birth name, was kidnapped at the age of 16 and forced into slavery on a sheep farm. The story goes to say that 6 years later he heard a voice speak to him in a dream, which he believed to be God, telling him to flee Ireland. He then walked nearly 200 miles to the Irish coast and escaped to Britain where he had a second visionary of an angel telling him to go back to Ireland to become a missionary. Over the course of the next fifteen years he continued his religious training and finally became an ordained priest. At this time he changed his name to Patricius, which is Latin for "father of his people", and returned to Ireland spreading the word of God until his death on March 17 in the late 400's A.D.
All saint's have what the Catholics refer to as a feast day, observed on the day of their death. However, Saint Patrick became somewhat of a national symbolic legend for conforming the Irish to Christianity and when the Irish Catholics immigrated into other countries, his day of feast became widespread. Traditional meats, such as Irish bacon, was prepared and served with sides of cabbage and topped off with a pint or two of an Irish brew. (FYI - Part of an old Irish custom was to place a small quantity of alcohol beside the deceased, which was believed to sustain them in their journey. That, and the worldwide stereotype that the Irish love to drink, has evolved into celebrating Saint Patrick's feast day by adding A LOT of beer!)
Since the first St. Patrick's day parade in 1761, people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions have come to enjoy the festivities. In Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team has worn green uniforms. In Great Britain, Manchester hosts a two week long festival prior to St. Patrick's day. Uruguay has all night street parties. And then there's us Americans... we dye our rivers green in Chicago, we dye our fountain waters green in Savannah, we even paint the parade route green in Missouri! We wear shiny green vests, don leprechaun-like shoes and hats - we just love everything green, especially our beer! A few recent traditions include ladies, with heavily painted lips, running up to a marching Armed Forced man during the parade and planting a kiss on his cheek or children building a makeshift leprechaun trap filled with treats and a handwritten note with a secret wish. It's also customary to wear and trade Mardi Gras beads by performing a task of the bead giver's request, which is usually a drunken kiss or "showing some skin"... (I wonder if the Pope or Queen Mother would approve!)
All in all, everyone loves to celebrate St. Paddy's Day wherever they are. Believe me when I tell you that seeing the parade and festivities on television do NOTHING for experiencing it firsthand! But if you can't make it this year, a definite to-do would be renting John Wayne's 1952 classic The Quiet Man and cooking a dish of corned beef and cabbage (drinking green beer, of course, is optional!). Whatever you decide to do, have fun and stay safe! ERIN GO BRAUGH!
Originally posted in March 2009 Issue
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"Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter
"Spring hangs her infant blossoms on the trees,