Monday, March 14, 2011
Folklore, Legends, Fun and History of St. Paddy's Day
St. Patrick's Day is one of the most celebrated International holiday's, rich with legend, folklore and traditions. It's one day a year, we all have a wee bit of Irish in us!
I thought it would be fun to share a brief history and the customs and legends behind the symbols of St. Patrick's day.
We think of shamrocks, leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, driving snakes from Ireland, the Blarney Stone and of course ~ green beer! Children dress in green and have parties at school, Cities have parades and celebrations, streams and fountains are dyed green, and of course adults enjoy pub crawls, corned beef & cabbage, mashed potatoes and bangers.
Although we celebrate as a secular holiday, it is actually a religious one. There are many ironies to St. Patrick. Patron Saint of Ireland, he was actually born in Scotland, and his real name was belived to be Maewyn Succat. Kindnapped at 16, he escaped to a monastary where he eventually went to Ireland and spent thirty years converting pagans to Christianity. St. Patrick died March 17 in A.D. 461. The day of St. Patrick's death became a three day feast in Ireland to honor him.
A popular symbol of St.Patrick's day is the Shamrock. It is belived it originated from St. Patrick used a shamrock or three leaf clover to help explain the concept of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Sprit). Three is Ireland's most sacred and magical number, the Shamrock with its three leaves also represents Crone, Mother and Virgin or Love, Valour and Wit.. Faith, Hope and Charity or Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the 1770s, Irish Volunteers wore a shamrock as a patriotic sign. Today, a British Royals representative present shamrocks to Irish regiments of the British Army on St. Patrick's Day.
St. Patrick is also reported to have driven all of the snakes from Ireland into the ocean, believed to be a pagan symbol, so the story possibly is a metaphor for driving paganism out of Ireland.
The first St. Patrick's Day parade was not in Ireland, but occurred on American soil, as Irish soldiers serving with the British troops marched through the streets of New York City on March 17, 1762.
In the Irish flag ~ Green represents the Catholics while orange represents the Protestants and both colors are present in the flag. As the holiday became secular, everyone wears green ~ Orange if you are not Irish, or you risk getting pinched!
A Leprechaun is an Irish fairy. According to legend, leprechauns are aloof and unfriendly, live alone, and have a hidden pot of gold. As shoemakers, you can follow the sound of his shoemaker's hammer to find one, but if caught, he can be forced to reveal where his pot of gold is hidden.. Very tricky little guys, you must keep your eye on them every second, or they vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.
In the wall of the Blarney Castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney is a special stone. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring the person who kisses the stone the gift of persuasive eloquence. One legend says that an old woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. A "must do" for any trip to Ireland.
Just a bit of fun history behind this tradition. If you do have Irish ancestors, be sure to remember Ireland's past and celebrate your heritage! Wear something green (preferably in Vintage!) eat Irish food, listen to Irish music, and "go green"
PS: As always, I have to stick in a personal note ~ my daughter and son-in-law are in Ireland as I write this, green with envy! Is there any place more fun to spend St. Patrick's day than in Dublin? I promise to post pictures when they return. :)
*Beautiful Shamrock image courtesy of karenswhimsy.com