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March 17th, St. Patrick's Day......

The harbinger of spring is upon us! On this day there is a bit of "the old sod" in all of us! In every ethnic group, the "wearin' of the green" will be the order of the day! So, get ready the green ties, hats, ribbons, bows, and those "Kiss Me I'm Irish" buttons. Being that this is a feast day, the menu will call for corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes.

A brief history.....

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he almost didn't get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship.

Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village. During his captivity, he became closer to God. He escaped from slavery after six years and went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years.

During his training he became aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity. His wishes were to return to Ireland, to convert the native pagans to Christianity. But his superiors instead appointed St. Palladius. But two years later, Palladius transferred to Scotland. Patrick, having adopted that Christian name earlier, was then appointed as second bishop to Ireland.

Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.

His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.

Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much of it is actually substantiated. Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people from the dead. He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native to Ireland, and some people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday.

One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock . And this stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That was the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country, in Boston.

A New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade
Passing St. Patrick's Cathedral

This parade, down 5th avenue, is usually about 2 miles long. On this day EVERYONE is Irish. Green articles of clothing could be seen worn in every ethnic neighborhood of the city. The Mayor, always referred to as "Hizzoner", leads the parade along 5th avenue, accompanied by politicians and other dignitaries.

No page for St. Patrick's Day would be complete without a musical interlude. There are 12 songs listed below. Click on each to hear the song therein. Some may be slow to start. See how many you can name. After you have played them all, click on the Answer bar below and you will see the names of the songs.

Song 1

Song 2

Song 3

Song 4

Song 5

Song 6

Song 7

Song 8

Song 9

Song 10

Song 11

Song 12

Irish Blessings

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And, until we meet again ...
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven,
half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.