St. Patrick’s Day

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Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day is more than just wearing green, drinking beer and eating Irish food? In fact, all of those traditions are American spin-offs from an origin much different. Incidentally, wearing green is actually considered unlucky in Ireland. “I think that St. Patrick was a saint who became very bored with his normal church service so he invented in his head a world of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers to keep himself entertained,” shared sophomore Melissa Peebles. “I heard the story once,” said junior Aaron Denlinger while floundering for a response. “I know he was a missionary in Ireland ... and … umm … (laugh) I dunno … I don’t remember very much. Sorry (shaking of head).” Sophomore international student Nara Lee knows it’s important to wear the right clothes on the March 17 holiday: “It’s about wearing green shirts and people pinch you if you don’t have green on … I’ve learned from the pain,” shared Lee. Although most people recognize the holiday by its trademark green wardrobe not many actually know that much about the history of St. Patrick’s Day. According to About.com, our friend Aaron wasn’t too far off in his recollection: it all started as a religious holiday commemorating the Catholic saint who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century. St. Patrick was born to a wealthy Christian family in Britian. However, while he was still young, he was kidnapped and taken for labor in Ireland from where he eventually fled. Divine inspiration led to his flight, and after wandering the desert, Patrick arrived in Britain. From there he ascended in the church and was chosen to convert the Irish. Why the shamrock? Supposedly, when Patrick tried to explain the concept of the Trinity to some Irish folk, they didn’t understand how God could be both one and three at the same time. For a visual aid, Patrick plucked a shamrock and identified its three identical yet distinct pieces that exist together in one clover. After his illustration, the message clicked and the shamrock became a national symbol and the rest is history! How did this holiday jump to the U.S.? It was in New York City that Irish soldiers serving in the English military were recognized in the holiday’s first parade held on March 17, 1762. This day celebrates the anniversary of Patrick’s death in the fifth century. Over the next several years, Irish patriotism among immigrants skyrocketed. In 1995, the United States Congress declared March to be Irish-American Heritage Month and in 2007 about 36.5 million U.S. residents claimed Irish ancestry. There’s more to St. Patrick’s roots, but this is the gist to satiate the small appetite of a quasi-committed history buff. Happy St. Patrick’s Day and don’t forget to wear green! www.americangreetings.com www.history.com
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