Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

File:Irish clover.jpg

The luck of the Irish be with you!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Well, here we are again at the time of year when EVERYONE is Irish.  I was wondering how this all began so I've done a little research.  After all, very few of us are, in reality, Irish so why is it that this day has become one of celebrations, parades, and shamrocks for so many?  This is what I learned from Wikipedia: the day is generally characterised by the attendance of church services, wearing of green attire (especially shamrocks), and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on fasting and drinking.  Little is known of Patrick's early life, though it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father and grandfather were deacons in the Church. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave.  It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.In 432, he again said that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to Christianise the Irish from their native polytheism. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of evangelism, he died on 17 March 461, and according to tradition, was buried at Downpatrick. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish Church.

Originally, the colour associated with Saint Patrick was blue. Over the years the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick's day grew.  Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century.  He is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day.  In the 1798 rebellion, in hopes of making a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on 17 March in hopes of catching public attention. The phrase "the wearing of the green", meaning to wear a shamrock on one's clothing, derives from a song of the same name.

Well, now I have some answers, but I wonder about the Christianity of which it all started.  Where do we find that in our celebrations today?  There will be lots of parades (some were held early over the weekend), there will be lots of green worn, there will be lots of pinches for those not wearing green, and there will be lots of corned beef and cabbage consumed.  But where is the religious celebration?  After all, that's the reason for the holiday.  Why is it that we don't celebrate that? 

See, I always have more questions.

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