St. Patrick Day

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St. Patrick Day


1. Taken Prisoner By Irish Raiders

2. Bonfires and Crosses

3. The First Parade

4. No Irish Need Apply

5. Wearing of the Green Goes Global

6. Leprechauns

7. Superstitions

8. Other Superstitions

9. The Truth about Saint Patrick



St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity’s most
widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains
somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with
St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the
snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of
exaggerated storytelling.

1. Taken Prisoner By Irish Raiders

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near
the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17,
around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been
suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives
and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious
family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of
Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported
him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some
dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he
was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely
that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he
worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid,
he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It
is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the
Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to
his writing, a voicewhich he believed to be God’sspoke to him in a
dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick
walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was
held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported
that he experienced a second revelationan angel in a dream tells him to
return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious
training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After
his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual missionto
minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert
the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held
notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)

2. Bonfires and Crosses

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to
incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead
of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used
bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their
gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol,
onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so
that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.

Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when
Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The
Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth.
When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s
life became exaggerated over the centuries spinning exciting tales to
remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.

3. The First Parade

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and
the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have
observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years. On St.
Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish
families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate
in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat
were waived and people would dance, drink, and feaston the traditional
meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the
United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched
through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the
parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well
as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next
thirty-five years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants
flourished, prompting the rise of so-called “Irish Aid” societies, like
the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group
would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first
became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums.

4. No Irish Need Apply

Up until the mid-nineteenth century, most Irish immigrants in America
were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato
Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor, uneducated,
Catholic Irish began to pour into America to escape starvation. Despised
for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant
majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When
Irish Americans in the country ‘s cities took to the streets on St.
Patrick’s Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in
cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.

However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers
endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They
started to organize, and their voting block, known as the “green
machine,” became an important swing vote for political hopefuls.
Suddenly, annual St. Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for
Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political
candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City ‘s St.
Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors
had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in

5. Wearing of the Green Goes Global

Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in
the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home
to the largest productions, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in
other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and

In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has traditionally been a
religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated
that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish
government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick’s Day as an
opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the
world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland ‘s
St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring
parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.

6. Leprechauns

Leprechauns are little make-believe fairies from Ireland. They are the
little old men who are shoemakers for the fairies. They usually stand
about 2 feet tall. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by
the sound of his shoemaker’s hammer. The legend is that if you catch one
you can force him to tell you where he hides his gold.

The Leprechaun

By Robert Dwyer Joyce (1830-83

In a shady nook one moonlit night,

A leprahaun I spied

In scarlet coat and cap of green,

A cruiskeen by his side.

Twas tick, tack, tick, his hammer went,

Upon a weeny shoe,

And I laughed to think of a purse of gold,

But the fairy was laughing too.

With tip-toe step and beating heart,

Quite softly I drew night.

There was mischief in his merry face,

A twinkle in his eye;

He hammered and sang with tiny voice,

And sipped the mountain dew;

Oh! I laughed to think he was caught at last,

But the fairy was laughing, too.

As quick as thought I grasped the elf,

“Your fairy purse,” I cried,

“My purse?” said he, “’tis in her hand,

That lady by your side.”

I turned to look, the elf was off,

And what was I to do?

Oh! I laughed to think what a fool I’d been,

And, the fairy was laughing too.

The Jig’s Up

The leprechauns are laughing

For their day is finally here

The legends and the folklore

Seep through the atmosphere

The dancers are all ready

An Irish jig is in the air

The walls of the pubs are bursting

There is not an empty chair

As the night becomes the morning,

The barman leads the song

From Danny Boy to Irish Eyes

The serenade goes on.

Then a husky voice is heard to say

Make this your final stein

For St. Patrick’s day is over

At it’s time Gentlemen it’s time.

7. Superstitions

Some say that in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day the traditional green beer
is prominent. However, in Ireland, many years ago, St. Patrick’s Day is
considered a holy day and Pubs were not open for business. There were no
parades, no drinking or wearing green. Green was considered an unlucky

The Clover

To find a piece of clover with four leaves is regarded far and wide as a
bringer of good fortune, and many people will spend an idle half hour or
so wandering across summer fields hoping to spot one – and they are
actually not as rare as generally supposed. In some parts of Britian it
is said that if a young man or woman finds such a clover they can expect
to meet their future love the same day. The fact that cattle
particularly enjoy grazing in fields of clover is the origin of the
phrase often applied to a person doing well in life, ‘He’s in clover.’ (
Incidentally, you can enhance your chances of good luck after finding a
four-leafed clover by handing it to someone else ). The reputation of
the four-leafed clover springs from the tradition that Eve took one with
her when she was expelled from paradise. There is an old saying
accociated with the leaf that goes:

One leaf for fame, one leaf for wealth,

One leaf for a faithful lover,

And one leaf to bring glorious health –

All are in the four-leaf clover.’

There is also a tradition that should you find one of the extremely rare
five-leaf clovers then you will become very wealthy. ( Irish readers
might like to note that the same traditions apply to their national
flower, the Shamrock ). Finally, during the war years there was a
superstition that if a man wore a four-leafed clover in his button hole
he would avoid millitary service!


The color green has for many years been regarded as an unlucky color in
Britian and America and certainly no bride hoping for a happy future
would dream of wearing it as any part of her ensemble. The origin of
this superstition is that it was the color of the fairies and little
people and they had such power over it they could easily steal away
anyone they found wearing it.

Many actors and actresses also believe it is an ill-omened color, and
that to wear a green costume on stage is to bring misfortune to both the
play and it’s players. It has been suggested, too, that the use of green
on postage stamps is an ill-omen and that whenever the Post Office have
employed it on any new issue the country has immediately suffered unrest
and great social problems.

In contrast, it is interesting to note that in several European
countries green is regarded as lucky because of its association with the
spirits of the trees, and superstition there says that to hang green
branches over doorways not only keeps away misfortune but drives witches
and demons off.

The Blarney Stone

The Blarney Stone is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower
in the Irish village of Blarney. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring
the kisser the gift of persuasive eloquence. The legend says that an old
woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from
drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the
ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. It’s difficult reach the
stone. Kissers have to lie on their back and bend backward or downward,
holding iron bars for support.

8. Other Superstitions

Moon, moon tell unto me,

When my true love I shall see?

What fine clothes am I to wear?

How many children will I bear?

For if my love comes not to me,

Dark and dismal my life will be.

– This verse, recited by a maiden as she gathered special herbs by the
light of the first full moon of the new year, could reveal a future
husband and cause the girl to have a true dream about the man–if she
first complied with certain requirements. With a black-handled knife she
had to cut out three pieces of earth, bring them home, tie them in her
left stocking, and secure the bundle with her right garter. The
completed package then had to be placed upon her pillow.

– When yawning, make the sign of the cross instantly over your mouth, or
the evil spirit will make a rush down and take up his abode with you.

– It is unlucky to offer your right hand in salutation, for there is an
old saying, “A curse with the left hand to those we hate, but the right
hand to those we honor.”

– If the palm of your hand itches you will be getting money; if the
elbow, you will be changing beds.

– Breaking a mirror brought seven years of bad luck, while two people
washing hands in the same basin at the same time courted disaster.

9. The Truth about Saint Patrick

Ah yes, on this day of days, the beer flows green and the passions and
pride of country swell. All in remembrance of one holy man who spread
the word of God amongst the heathens! Oh for the truth to be known for
the truth is better than the made-up story of this man.

Who was Saint Patrick?

He was not an Irishman by birth but by heart.

The man known to all of us as the blessed Saint Patrick was born in a
small Welsh village with the rather humble name of Cowbridge. This is a
small farming community just south and west of what is now Cardiff.

It was here that he was raised in the old Welsh religion and with out a
doubt visited and prayed at the Margam Abbey which was only ten miles
from his home.

Patrick had the misfortune to have been captured by coastal raiders one
day and was eventually sold into slavery in Ireland. Here he spent seven
years tending the flocks of his keepers whom though they bought him, as
a slave did not treat him unduly harsh.

Eventually Patrick escaped his captivity and returned to his village and
began to study with the priests at Margam Abbey.

He spent 12 years in schooling and prayer before being sent back to
Ireland not by the church in Rome but by the church in Wales.

You see there is a common misconception that Patrick was under the
direction of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome, when actually
his direction and influence came from Llandaff Cathedral in Wales.

It is generally accepted that the rule of the Roman Catholic Church in
Great Britain began with the arrival of Augustine in 597 AD. Since St.
Patrick died around 490 AD it would have been quite hard for him to have
been under the direction of the church.

This leaves only one possible solution. Patrick was a member of the
Welsh church established in 37 AD by Joseph of Arimathea. And since the
seat of the church was Llandaff Cathedral, only 12 miles from his home,
it is safe to assume that he came under its influence.

Patrick had been sent to Ireland to bring the residing Christians back
to the fold and to convert the heathens. Heathens meaning those who
still followed the Druid religion and other pagan Gods.

Now you have to understand that these Druids were not the original
Druids that frequented the lands of Wales and Greater Britain for they
had been eradicated en-masse by the Roman Legions in 70 AD on the Island
of Holy Head.

The Irish Druids could at best be described as a Hybrid form of Druids.
Where the original religious practice was the observance of the laws of
nature and a celebration of life in general, the Irish form of the
religion weighted heavily on the magical side with even hints of human
sacrifices thrown in. In short a polar opposite of the original.

Patrick having been born and raised near the seat of Druid teaching in
southern Wales would have been very aware of the customs and practices
of the Druids. It is a well accepted fact that upon the arrival of
Christianity in 37 AD, the locals Druids interacted with the Christians

So it should come as no surprise that Patrick had at his disposal an
intimate knowledge of the Irish Druids and this made it easier for him
to go head to head with the religion.

Now Ireland never did have any snakes that I am aware of. It is the
opinion of this writer that the use of the idea that “Patrick drove the
snakes out of Ireland” is another way of describing the pushing aside of
the Druids. In religious connotation the snake has always been seen as a
symbol of evil and the devil and I am quite sure that during the
retelling of the story during the middle ages that this descriptive
terminology was used and eventually accepted as fact.

Take all the hoopla and put it aside and we are left with an amazing
story of one man against an established belief system.

A man following his own beliefs and the teachings of his church doing
battle with a foe in a country that he once was enslaved.

To say that Saint Patrick was brave is an understatement, for he faced
certain death returning to Ireland as an escaped slave. To say that he
was intelligent is mute as he matched wits with the leaders of the
Druids and bested them. To say he was pure of heart is to be humble, for
only a man of conviction and true belief could have survived and
triumphed over the odds he faced.

To say that Patrick is worthy of Sainthood is to acknowledge all his
achievements and recognize his true value to the world. This, to me, is
better than the made-up stories of his deeds.

10. Sayings

1. A man that can’t laugh at himself should be given a mirror.

2. A man takes a drink; the drink takes a drink; the drink takes the

3. A narrow neck keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig.

4. Morning is the time to pity the sober. The way they’re feeling then
is the best they’re going to feel all day.

5. You can lead the horse to the well, but you can’t make him drink.

6. Better the coldness of a friend than the sweetness of an enemy.

7. Be nice to them on the way up. You might meet them all on the way

8. If a man fools me once, shame on him. If he fools me twice, shame on

9. Let your anger set the sun and not rise again with it.

11. Toasts

Here’s to absent friends and here’s twice to absent enemies.

Here’s to the light heart and the heavy hand.

Thirst is a shameless disease so here’s to a shameful cure.

Here’s to a wet night and a dry morning.

May we always have a clean shirt, a clean conscience, and a bob in the

May you be across Heaven’s threshold before the old boy knows you’re

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