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At least Being Wrong Usually Isn’t Fatal! Some Truths About St. Patrick!

For about five years we spent the worst part of a Wisconsin winter in the historic area of Savannah, Georgia. When St. Patrick’s Day festivities arrived, we tried to escape Savannah, at least for the day. The parade on that day is the third largest in the world and the second largest in the USA! Of course, the city is inundated with revelers, the fountains and beer run green, the normal restraints on decent and civil behavior are diminished, and the day is better spent elsewhere for some of us. The difficult thing for those of us who know a bit more about the namesake of the celebration, is that the venerable saint exemplified almost everything opposite of that demonstrated in our contemporary celebrations.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few things about Saint Patrick (his namesake holiday commemorates the day of his death-March 17, 461 AD) that you may not have known:

  1. He wasn’t Irish! He had Roman parents who were living in either Scotland or Wales at the time of his birth.
  2. The color associated with St. Patrick is blue, not green.
  3. He used the shamrock to preach about the Christian Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). It is not the symbol of Ireland (the harp is).
  4. Being a religious holiday in Ireland until 1970, all pubs were closed and no drinking was allowed.
  5. The legend says he drove all the snakes from Ireland, but the cold and wet climate is likely the reason that there have never been any snakes there.
  6. There may be more Irish, or at least those who descended from at least one Irish ancestor, in the USA than in Ireland. (there are 4.2 million living in Ireland and 34 million in the USA who claim Irish ancestry).

Most historians suggest that this holiday was invented in the USA by Irish-Americans as a means of retaining an ethnic identity. Even though it has changed in Ireland in the recent past, until the 1970s, St. Patrick’s Day was a minor religious holiday. A priest would acknowledge the feast day, and families would celebrate with a big meal, but that was about it.

Of course, it is good to remember that for much of the world, St. Patrick is best remembered for advancing the Christian religion in Ireland, not for celebrations with green beer, raucous parades, and leprechauns!