Luck of the Irish

The shamrocks, green beer and leprechaun hats come out in force on St. Patrick’s Day 17 March. I am not a big St Patrick’s day reveller but I do have a big interest in the origin of words, events and traditions, so I was quietly looking forward to finding out more about St Patrick’s Day. I read and read until I came across an article by Morgan Windsor in the International Business Times. I liked her style and the fun facts that I discovered are largely based on her work.

Now I know that St. Patrick wasn’t even named Patrick. How does that work? His birth name was Maewyn Succat and he changed his name to Patricius after becoming a priest. And it gets worse…St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He may be the Apostle of Ireland, but shock horror, St. Patrick was  born in Britain around A.D. 385 to Roman parents. He went to Ireland 16 years later and apparently not by choice.

St. Patrick was a slave who at age 16, was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he tended sheep for 10 years. He then fled to England at age 22 taking refuge in a monastery in Gaul for 12 years, where he studied for the priesthood and was ordained a bishop. St. Patrick later took his teachings back to Ireland, where, for 30 years, he strove to convert the country to Christianity.

And here comes the biggest shock.  St. Patrick’s colour is not even green. Blue was the colour originally associated with St. Patrick and artwork often depict him wearing blue . Blue was used to represent Ireland on flags, coats of arms and sports jerseys. That changed in the 17th century. Green is one of the colours in Ireland’s tricolour flag and Ireland was dubbed the Emerald Isle for its lush green landscape.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York City in 1762Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city. Parades celebrating the Irish holiday weren’t common until the mid-19th century. Beer was originally banned on St. Patrick’s Day. You read that correctly. Between 1903 and 1970 St. Patrick’s Day was a religious holiday for the entire country, which meant pubs were closed. Today, an estimated  13 million pints of Guinness is consumed.

March 17 is the day of St. Patrick’s death.The Catholic Church designates the day a saint dies as a holy day  because that is when he enters heaven. St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to illustrate that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit could be separate entities yet one and the same.

Today, the shamrock is often viewed as a symbol of good luck. And good luck is what you will need to find a four-leaf clover given the odds of finding one are put at 1 in 10,000.

My wrap is shamrock and beer free but unapologetically green. Lots of different green pattern combinations on gifts for St Patrick’s Day revellers. The contrasting pattern belly band gives an extra oomph to be sure.

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