St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and one of Christianity's most widely known figures. Despite 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. (Imagine the Irish embellishing and telling stories!)
What is known about St. Patrick is that he was born in Britain to wealthy parents in 385 and named Maewyn Succat. He is believed to have died on March 17, 461 A.D. It is not believed that his family was particularly religious and he was most likely drawn to the clergy initially because of the tax incentives associated with it. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attaching his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity working as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. During this time he turned to his religion for solace and become a devout Christian. Eventually he escaped and walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo to the Irish coast and escaped to Britain where one night he had a dream telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after he began religious training which lasted 15 years. Following his ordination he returned to Ireland as a priest with a dual mission to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.
There were a small number of Christians on the island when he arrived but the majority of the Irish were practicing a nature-based pagan religion. Patrick is credited with taking many of those traditions and mixing them with Christianity including developing the Celtic Cross. Patrick is credited with managing the church in Ireland including dividing Ireland into diocese and building monasteries.
The History of the Holiday
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on the anniversary of Patrick's death. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years. Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten restrictions on the the consumption of meat was waived and people would dance, drink and feast.
The first 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.
Many Irish Catholics immigrated to the US as a result of the Great Potato Famine of 1845. Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When they took to the streets annually to celebrate St. Patrick's Day they were portrayed in newspaper cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys. However, they soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them as a political power that had yet to be exploited. Suddenly St. Patrick's Day celebrations and parades became a show of strength. The first president to attend a St. Patrick's Day parade was President Truman in 1948.
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, it has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore and Russia.
Quotes and Anecdotes
Samuel Johnson once said, "the Irish are a fair people, they never speak well of one another." So, naturally, Brendan Behan, that bad boy of Irish literature, had the Irish insult down to a fine art: "If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks."
Father O'Malley was going through the post one day. Drawing a single sheet of paper from an envelope, he found written on it just one word: "FOOL." The next Sunday at Mass, he announced, "I have known many people who have written letters and forgot to sign their names. But this week I received a letter from someone who signed his name and forgot to write a letter."
Have you heard about the Irish boomerang? It doesn't come back, it just sings sad songs about how much it wants to.
"Being Irish, I have an abiding sense of tragedy which sustains me through temporary periods of joy." --W.B. Yeats
"Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much." --Oscar Wilde
A Belfast newspaper reported on the launching of an aircraft carrier and recorded: The Duchess smashed the bottle against the bow and amid the applause of the crowd she slid on her greasy bottom into the sea
Julio Iglesias was being interviewed by British TV host Anne Diamond when he used the word 'manyana'. Diamond asked him to explain what it meant. He said that the term means "maybe the job will be done to-morrow, maybe the next day, maybe the day after that. Perhaps next week, next month, next year. Who cares?" The host turned to Irishman Shay Brennan who was also on the show and asked him if there was an equivalent term in Irish. "No. In Ireland we don't have a word to describe that degree of urgency", replied Brennan.
Often the true stories are more humorous than made-up jokes: A young girl came to the late Father Healy of Cork, and sadly made her confession: "Father, I fear I've committed the sin of vanity," she announced. "What makes you think that?" asked her father-confessor. "Because every morning, when I look in the mirror, I cannot help but think how beautiful I am." "Never fear, colleen," was the reassuring reply. "That isn't a sin; it's only a mistake."
Sir Lewis Morris was complaining to Oscar Wilde about the neglect of his poems by the press. "It's a conspiracy of silence," he declared, "What do you think I should do?" "Join it!" suggested Wilde.
"True friends stab you in the front." --Oscar Wild
Which famous ship was built in Ireland? The Titanic was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Ireland
Which five-line poem style is named after an Irish county? The Limerick, named after Limerick County, is noted by the 1st, 2nd and 5th lines rhyming and the 3rd and 4th lines rhyming.
What symbolism did St Patrick give the shamrock? St. Patrick used the shamrock to signify the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The "lucky" shamrock has 4 petals.
Which colors are on the flag of Ireland? Green to signify the Irish Catholics and the Republic Cause, orange to represent Irish Protestants, and white to represent the hope for peace between them.
What is the national symbol of Ireland? The Celtic Harp
1. In kindergarten your idea of a good friend was the person who let you have the red crayon when all that was left was the ugly black one.
2. In first grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to the bathroom with you and held your hand as you walked through the scary halls.
3. In second grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you stand up to the class bully.
4. In third grade your idea of a good friend was the person who shared their lunch with you when you forgot yours on the bus.
5. In fourth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who was willing to switch square dancing partners in gym so you wouldn't have to be stuck do-si-do-ing with Nasty Nicky or Smelly Susan.
6. In fifth grade your idea of a friend was the person who saved a seat on the back of the bus for you.
7. In sixth grade your idea of a friend was the person who went up to Nick or Susan, your new crush, and asked them to dance with you, so that if they said no you wouldn't have to be embarrassed.
8. In seventh grade your idea of a friend was the person who let you copy the social studies homework from the night before that you had.
9. In eighth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pack up your stuffed animals and old baseball cards so that your room would be a "high schooler's" room, but didn't laugh at you when you finished and broke out into tears.
10. In ninth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to that "cool" party thrown by a senior so you wouldn't wind up being the only freshman there.
11. In tenth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who changed their schedule so you would have someone to sit with at lunch.
12. In eleventh grade your idea of a good friend was the person who gave you rides in their new car, convinced your parents that you shouldn't be grounded, consoled you when you broke up with Nick or Susan, and found you a date to the prom.
13. In twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pick out a college, assured you that you would get into that college, helped you deal with your parents who were having a hard time adjusting to the idea of letting you go...
14. At graduation your idea of a good friend was the person who was crying on the inside but managed the biggest smile one could give as they congratulated you.
15. The summer after twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you clean up the bottles from that party, helped you sneak out of the house when you just couldn't deal with your parents, assured you that now that you and Nick or you and Susan were back together, you could make it through anything, helped you pack up for college and just silently hugged you as you looked through blurry eyes at 18 years of memories you were leaving behind, and finally on those last days of childhood, went out of their way to give you reassurance that you would make it in college as well as you had these past 18 years, and most importantly sent you off to college knowing you were loved.
16. Now, your idea of a good friend is still the person who gives you the better of the two choices, hold your hand when you're scared, helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you, thinks of you at times when you are not there, reminds you of what you have forgotten, helps you put the past behind you but understands when you need to hold on to it a little longer, stays with you so that you have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for you, helps you clear up your mistakes, helps you deal with pressure from others, smiles for you when they are sad, helps you become a better person, and most importantly loves you!