Patrick records in his Confessio that he was taken from his home in Britain at about sixteen years of age, along with many thousands of people, and brought to Ireland as a captive. His assigned work as a shepherd gave him abundant time for prayer and contemplation, and his faith grew. He escaped after six years of servitude, and eventually made his way back to his parents. He did not remain in Britain, however. One night in a dream he heard “the voice of the Irish” calling him to return and “walk among them”, and so began his famous ministry.
Patrick’s Epistola was sent to Coroticus, a nominally Christian warlord whose soldiers had attacked many of Patrick’s converts, killing some and kidnapping others. Patrick had sent ambassadors to ask for their return, explaining that those kidnapped were fellow-Christians, but the delegation was met only with jeers. Outraged, Patrick sent a strongly-worded letter telling the soldiers that they had been ensnared by the devil, and would suffer eternal punishment if they did not repent and return the captives. It is not known if the letter had the desired effect.
The first celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America took place in Boston in 1737, hosted by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston. There was likely some sort of informal procession, but no official parade. Thus New York can claim the honor of hosting the first official St. Patrick’s Day parade, in 1762. The marchers were Irish soldiers serving in the English army. Although St. Patrick’s Day is not an official holiday in the United States, it is nevertheless widely celebrated, and with good reason: over 30 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, more than seven times the population of Ireland itself!
Legend has it that St. Patrick received a short measure of whiskey from a shady innkeeper. Patrick told the man that a devil dwelt in his cellar, feeding upon his dishonesty, which so alarmed him that he at once mended his ways. Receiving a much more generous serving on his next visit, Patrick remarked that the devil downstairs was now starving, and that everyone should have a generous glass on his feast day. Thus Pota Phadraig — Patrick’s Pot — came into being. Even if you have vowed to give up drink for Lent, you can take as much as you like from Patrick’s Pot with the saint’s blessing. On the last drink of the evening, the shamrock you have been wearing through the day is placed in the bottom of the glass, and after the toast and the downing of the whiskey, the “drowned” shamrock is thrown over the left shoulder.
The word shamrock comes from the Irish Gaelic seamrog or “little clover”. But if the true shamrock is a clover, and not oxalis, which clover is it? No one is quite sure. One popular candidate is Trifolium repens , or white clover, but some judge that species to be unacceptably coarse, and prefer the daintier Trifolium dubium (lesser clover, or hop clover). Either way, clover does not grow well as a house-plant, so the wood sorrel — also an Irish plant — has been adopted as a kind of honorary shamrock. The important thing is to have a plant with a three-lobed leaf, since St. Patrick was said to have used such a plant when explaining the Trinity to converts.
St. Patrick’s Day was a family affair, celebrated with attendance at mass followed by feasting, drinking, music and storytelling. Although green is the traditional Irish color, it was not worn by children. This was for safety reasons, since green was also the favorite color of the fairies. A child wearing green was believed to be in danger of being spirited away by the wee folk.
Although St. Urho’s “legend” is set in Finland, this unhistorical saint was actually concocted in Minnesota in the 1950s as a pretext for a Finnish-American celebration to rival St. Patrick’s Day. The story goes that in ancient times, grapes grew plentifully in Finland. When a horde of grasshoppers threatened the crop, St. Urho, waving his pitchfork, drove them off by chanting “Heinäsirkka, Heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!” (Grasshopper, Grasshopper, go away!). The colors of St. Urho’s Day are purple and green, for the grapes and grasshoppers respectively. Celebrations include parades, polkas and, of course, quantities of grape juice and wine.
In Ireland, the meat for the meal was much more likely to have been a “bacon joint” — a piece of cured pork — than a piece of corned beef. Beef was expensive, so corned beef was reserved for the rich and for the export market. When the Irish emigrated to North America, where beef was relatively cheap, they switched to corned beef. The word “corn” in this usage refers to the coarse kernels of salt that were rubbed into the meat to cure it. Nowadays the meat is brined or pickled, not cured with corns of salt, but we still call it corned beef.
Leprechauns are the shoemakers for the fairies, and can be found by listening for the tap-tap-tap of their hammers. If you catch a leprechaun, you can make him give you his gold, but this is more easily said than done, for he is notoriously devious. Take your eyes off him for but a second and he will vanish — and he has many tricks to divert your gaze. Leprechauns feature in St. Patrick’s Day parades everywhere. In Chicago, they contribute to the celebrations by turning the river green for several hours each year in honor of the day.
A st patrick's day quiz
A ST PATRICK’S DAY QUIZ
<ul><li>St. Patrick’s Day is an official public holiday in </li></ul><ul><li>just three places: Ireland, Northern Ireland and </li></ul><ul><li>where else? </li></ul><ul><li>Australia </li></ul><ul><li>Canada </li></ul><ul><li>Malta </li></ul><ul><li>Montserrat </li></ul>
<ul><li>According to St. Patrick’s own writings, he first </li></ul><ul><li>went to Ireland as a teenage boy. How did he </li></ul><ul><li>get there? </li></ul><ul><li>A) As a footsoldier in the Roman army B) As the captive of slave traders C) In a home-made leather-skinned boat D) With his father, who had been appointed sheriff </li></ul>
<ul><li>Apart from his Confessio , only one other surviving </li></ul><ul><li>literary work can be attributed with reasonable </li></ul><ul><li>confidence to St. Patrick. What is it? </li></ul><ul><li>A) A demand for the release of Christian captives B) A history of pre-Christian Ireland C) A treatise on reptiles D) An invitation to tribal people to undergo baptism </li></ul>
<ul><li>Which American city held the first St. Patrick’s </li></ul><ul><li>Day celebration in the United States? </li></ul><ul><li>A) Boston, Massachusetts B) Chicago, Illinois C) New York, New York D) Savannah, Georgia </li></ul>
<ul><li>In Ireland, the shamrock is often worn on St. </li></ul><ul><li>Patrick’s Day. Some wearers also follow an old </li></ul><ul><li>custom called “drowning the shamrock”. How is </li></ul><ul><li>this done? </li></ul><ul><li>A) By floating it down the Derry with a pinned-on prayer to St. Patrick B) By pouring whiskey over it before drinking C) By sprinkling it with water before wearing it D) By symbolically “baptizing” it in a wooden bowl </li></ul>
<ul><li>The “shamrock” plant you buy for St. Patrick’s </li></ul><ul><li>Day at your local nursery or grocery store is </li></ul><ul><li>usually a wood sorrel (also called “oxalis”). It is </li></ul><ul><li>sold as a shamrock because: </li></ul><ul><li>A) The actual shamrock is unimpressively small B) The sale of shamrocks is illegal C) The true shamrock is too hard to grow D) They are one and the same thing </li></ul>
<ul><li>At an old-fashioned St. Patrick’s Day celebration </li></ul><ul><li>in Ireland, which of these would you not see? </li></ul><ul><li>A) Children clothed all in green B) Men and women dancing together C) Musicians playing the bagpipes D) The wearing of the shamrock </li></ul>
<ul><li>March 17 is the feast of St. Patrick, who is said to </li></ul><ul><li>Have driven the snakes out of Ireland. On March 16, </li></ul><ul><li>Some people celebrate St. Urho, who is said to have </li></ul><ul><li>Helped Finland in a similar way by driving out: </li></ul><ul><li>A) Bears, which had decimated the reindeer population B) Grasshoppers, which threatened to ruin the grape crop C) Invading Norwegians, whose army was poised for victory D) Snakes, just like St. Patrick </li></ul>
<ul><li>In North America, a traditional St. Patrick’s Day </li></ul><ul><li>dinner includes corned beef, cabbage, soda </li></ul><ul><li>bread and boiled potatoes. Which part of this </li></ul><ul><li>meal would not have been traditionally served </li></ul><ul><li>in Ireland? </li></ul><ul><li>A) Cabbage B) Corned beef C) Potatoes D) Soda bread </li></ul>
<ul><li>Although they have no association with St. </li></ul><ul><li>Patrick himself, the mischievous fairy folk called </li></ul><ul><li>leprechauns are a well-known symbol of Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>and St. Patrick’s Day. What is the leprechauns’ </li></ul><ul><li>traditional occupation? </li></ul><ul><li>A) Gardening B) Goldsmithing C) Shoemaking D) Tinkering </li></ul>