Erin Go Bragh!

Ginny here. It’s St. Paddy’s! I’m wearin’ the green for my Mom’s greats and grands. They came over the pond with the flood of immigrants escaping the potato famine. It’s Irish Pride Day, with parades in cities all over the world, parties, pipes and Irish whiskey (neat or in coffee), shamrocks, leprechauns, blarney, and limericks.

409px-Kilbennan_St._Benin's_Church_Window_St._Patrick_Detail_2010_09_16St. Patrick (Saint Benin’s Church, Ireland) courtesy of Andreas F. Borchert

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland who famously drove out the snakes. It’s his central legend among many and of course the “snakes” are the druids and the nature based religion that was replaced by Christianity during the Roman conquest.

The Romans were better than anybody at effectively spreading their culture. Part of their brilliance was to keep the dates of festivals that conquered people were accustomed to celebrating and slowly to morph those dates with new names and narratives. So March 17 got a new history and is forever associated with a man born in 387 A.D as Maewyn Succat. His father Calphurnius was a Roman official. In his autobiography, he recounts how he was kidnapped at age 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland. He escaped and traveled to St. Martin’s monastery in Tours, France, where he studied under Saint Germain of Auxerre and became a priest. In 431 A.D. Pope Celestine I named him Patricius and sent him on a mission to Ireland. The rest is a mixture of history and legend about the conversion of Ireland to what was then the new religion.

Okay, this gets a little crazy to follow. The Shamrock, our instant identification of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland is a trefoil (Latin for clover), its three leaves a symbol of the trinity. But it goes back way way before that, when the trefoil was the sigil of the ancient Irish god Trefuilngid, whose feast day was March 17. One of his responsibilities was to tell the history of Ireland to the people so it would not be forgotten. The Irish hold their history dear and are famous storytellers, so I think he did his job.

Everybody’s  Irish on this day.

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Montreal, Quebec, Canada courtesy of jpmpinmontreal

It’s an immersive experience and a rite of spring we share with people around the globe. Green beer, green ice cream, green pancake syrup, green milkshakes….green rivers! One of my best St. Patrick’s Day memories is a party on the River Walk in San Antonio with some of my besties, very green margaritas, and a boat parade on the dyed-green river. Great music too, to make you dance and laugh and cry. Here’s a small sampling. A quick search will yield hundreds more.

So whether you’re dancing and singing, eating and drinking, parading, or dying things green, remember to include a little spring blarney in your day just for fun! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! How will you celebrate?