The Luck of the Irish

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Like many in the world who claim their heritage to be Irish I am looking forward to this Sunday! It’s a day for me to spend time with my family and to consume traditional Irish food of Shepherd’s Pie and Corned beef and cabbage. But did you know where St. Paddy’s Day originated from and that the color originally associated with Saint Patrick himself was not green?

Traditionally St. Patrick’s Day was created to commemorate Saint Patrick one of the most recognized patron saints of Ireland. He was noted for bringing Christianity to Ireland and getting rid of all the “snakes”. He was not the first person to introduce Christianity to the island, but the first to “make it stick”.  St. Patrick was believed to not even be from Ireland either! It is said that he was actually from Britain and was then enslaved in Ireland for many years and then after having dreams of angels talking to him as well as God, he returned to Ireland to get rid of all the pagans.

The very first St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t even celebrated in Ireland either. It was introduced right here in the United States in none other Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. It didn’t become an official holiday in Ireland until 1903. In the U.S. it is not observed as an official holiday, but is recognized by just about everybody. Unfortunately the day has lost it’s meaning over the years as it has become more and more secularized by other countries. We tend to focus on the wearing of green, drinking of alcohol, and parades. We have forgotten what St. Paddy did for Ireland and how it would be different if not for him. Speaking of wearing green, green wasn’t even the color originally associated with St. Patrick. Can you guess what it might have been? It was…blue! Weird right? Well it wasn’t until kids started wearing the green to school that it became the now iconic color of St. Patrick’s Day.

I would love to be able to go Ireland just to explore where my dad’s side of the family came from and to see the beautiful countryside. It would also be awesome to go celebrate this day with the Irish in Ireland as well. In Ireland though, since we Americans associate this day with drinking and going to the bar, most of the bars are closed on St. Patrick’s Day so everyone can spend time with their families. Also they will life the restrictions from Lent for the day so that people can consume alcohol and other such items. An old Irish tradition is to “Drown the Shamrock”. In this tradition you are to place a shamrock on top of your whiskey an let it float in order to have a prosperous year. Interesting!

Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day is observed in over 11 different countries? Some of these are Japan, Argentina, and Russia! Also in the U.S. in Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed green every year! Wow, that’s a lot of dye! In every country St. Paddy’s Day is celebrated a little differently, but they all include some sort of parade, the drinking of beer, and wearing of green. Some countries have a little more elaborate celebrations than others, but they all have the same secular background.

So what are you going to do this St. Patrick’s Day? I hope that you can at least take a minute to acknowledge the introduction of Christianity into Ireland and what it has done for us now in 2013. Of course you can still have fun and wear the green and dress up as leprechauns, but also try and celebrate our faith.

Have a great weekend!