|Sent on:||Thursday, March 15, 2012 7:20 AM|
A Wee Bit of Knowledge to Get to Know the Irish and St. Paddy's Day"
Each year, around the Chicago area we celebrate St. Patrick's Day with much gusto and more than a little drinking. Still, most Chicagoans (and most Americans) likely don’t know much about the real story of St. Patrick and how it relates to the Irish culture. Here are a few facts you may find interesting about good old St. Paddy, the Irish people and their holiday.
- St. Patrick was born Maewyn Succat in Roman Britain. He is the patron saint of Ireland. He served as a missionary in Ireland for a 30-year period during the fifth century. During that period, he ordained over 300 bishops and converted hundreds of thousands to Christianity. St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, is celebrated not on the day of his birth, but on the day that he died.
- At the age of 16, St. Patrick was captured by Celtic invaders and taken with them to Ireland. During the six years he spent enslaved by the Celts, he made a special effort to learn their local customs, language, and the rituals and symbols of the Celtic Druids. Later, after Succat became a Roman Catholic apostle assigned to the island by Rome, he used this knowledge to help them assimilate Christianity into their lives.
- The legend of how St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland is not literally true. Snakes are not native to that country. It is instead meant to symbolize casting out pagan worship or the devil (the “serpent”) from Ireland.
- The phrase "Erin Go Bragh" means "Ireland until eternity" or "Ireland forever."
- St. Patrick is also often credited with having first introduced alcohol to Ireland. This event has certainly had a profound and long-lasting impact on their culture and reputation (along with their festive celebrations).
- The most famous symbol of St. Patrick's Day is the shamrock, a three-leaf clover variety. The shamrock had long been considered sacred by the Celtic Druids. St. Patrick adopted the three leaves of the plant to reinforce the concept of the Holy Trinity among those he converted from the Druid's worship of nature.
- While St. Patrick's color was originally blue, it has become green from his association with the “Emerald Isle.”
- In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a fairly solemn religious event. While St. Patrick's Day is an Irish national holiday with most citizens being off work, their observation is generally marked with church worship, family feasting and community celebrations. It is only recently that St. Patrick’s Day parades have become more popular there. It is an interesting fact that, prior to 1970, Irish law prohibited the pubs from being open on March 17th!
- The original St. Patrick’s Day Parades were born in the United States, not Ireland. They began in Boston in 1761 and New York City in 1762. Chicago hosted our first St. Patrick's Day Parade 1843. Festivities in our country can be traced historically to early days when Irish immigrants were discriminated against and persecuted. Thus, the St. Patrick's Day parades in this country initially came about as a public display of pride in Irish-Americans' roots and culture.
- The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade began in 1979 as a neighborhood celebration of the holiday. It actually took to the main streets in 1981. After a three-year hiatus, it came back this past weekend.
- Until the mid-1800s, the large majority of Irish immigrants in America had been members of the Protestant middle and upper classes. However, when the Great Potato Famine (a fungus blight) hit Ireland in the mid-1840s, it wiped out that nation’s primary source for food. As a result, a million destitute, downtrodden, Catholic Irish had to emigrate from Ireland to America to avoid starvation. Because they were poor, uneducated, had largely unpopular religious beliefs and strong accents, the new immigrants had trouble finding even the most menial jobs.
- From their persecution came solidarity – the large wave of Irish immigrants banded together to form a strong political “block” as they became citizens. They organized and became an important faction of machine politics. Thus, annual St. Patrick's Day parades have become a show of strength for Irish-Americans that are attended by political candidates of all stripes.
- In Chicago, dyeing the Chicago River Began in 1962 with 100 pounds of vegetable dyes added. Today, to keep the environmental impact to a minimum. only 40 pounds are used.
I love the great, wisdom-filled sayings of the Irish. Here are a few I am especially fond of: “Oh, he occasionally takes an alcoholiday.”- Oscar Wilde "You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was."
"The truth comes out when the spirit goes in."
"Don't be breaking your shin on a stool that's not in your way."
"Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off. How many are left? Answer: five. (Why? Because there's a difference between deciding and doing.)"
"We attract what we love and what we fear."
"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." - Oscar Wilde
"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."
"It's easy to have principles when you're rich. The important thing is to have principles when you're poor."
"You never miss the water till the well has run dry."
"Remember even if you lose all, keep your good name; for if you lose that you are worthless."
Have a Green Day!
Jim “Senny” Senhauser