Today is the day that the world is Irish, or at least the day everyone celebrates the life of a Christian saint in their own special way. Like Saint Nicholas, Saint Patrick is a Christian patron Saint. Like Nicholas, Patrick has origins most don’t know. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, but he was not Irish! Patrick was born to Roman parents living as occupiers in the British colonies. He was actually born in Scotland (sure to be a helpful bit of trivia to Scots when arguing with the Irish in a pub). Patrick was captured when he was about 14 years old and taken to Ireland to serve as a slave. He tended to the sheep and helped herd the animals. While there he learned much about the druids and the pagans that were common in the country. Six years later he escaped and fled back to Britain. He supposedly had dreams after that of the Irish people calling him back. Patrick had a calling and became a priest, later rising to the role of Bishop. In 433 he was assigned to spread the word in Ireland and returned to the emerald isle. Patrick preached to all and converted nearly the entire population. He had many disciples and many of them became saints as well. One of the stories of the time of St. Patrick tells how he used the shamrock to explain the trinity to the people. This may well be true since it was a familiar plant to the pagans who used it as a symbolic plant to represent the rebirth of life each spring. It was also a symbol of the druid/pagan triple goddess. There are many myths connect to the life of St. Patrick, probably with the lives of many saints. Biggest myth is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. Didn’t happen- no snakes in Ireland to drive out!
We’ve been discussing all week how the Irish celebrate Christmas so I thought we might look briefly at how they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In America the day is spent with loud, raucous parades and festivals, mostly centered on drinking beer, green or otherwise. Get your green clothes, green hair dye, green bagels, and green rivers ready (St. Pat’s color was originally blue FYI). The food for our American celebration of the Irish saint? Corned beef and cabbage of course! In Ireland the day is a religious holiday and a holy day of obligation to the devout. Most Irish go to church and spend time with family and friends. Some large cities have parades today, mainly in response to the American celebrations held over the last century. The Irish meal will center on bacon and roasted chicken. No green light-up blinky hats, no sparkly green beads or glasses, no green mugs hung on a string around your neck.
Time to make a connection to Christmas right? Well here’s my hint for tying our American celebration of the Irish to Christmas. Now is the time to buy! Buy all those great green items you can to save for Christmas use. While I was out today I saw lots of things I will go back to get tomorrow on sale. There were great green plates, napkins, and plastic utensils. There were some nice green table linens and serving trays/bowls. I even had my eye on some green decorative sugar and cupcake wrappers. There were some cute little green clothes for the kids too. These could be bought as gifts for the holidays- just need to add the months to the age to know what size to buy. The trick is to remember you have all these March bargains when it gets to be December.