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Jolly Ol' Saint Patrick


March 11, 2014

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    Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday famous mostly because of its endless supply of green beer and cute little leprechaun mascot.
    I’ve mentioned before that when holidays like Halloween roll around, they sometimes spark my curiosity about why we began celebrating them in the first place. St. Patrick’s Day is another one of those holidays, a day that has morphed into an annual drunken street party for thousands of revelers who, by in large, have no idea what or why they’re even celebrating.
    However, I have decided this year to study up a bit on Ol’ St. Pat, and what I learned regarding the commonly held ideas about March 17 and its saint may surprise you.

    •  St. Patrick was Irish.
    BLARNEY: St. Patrick was born in what today is Britain, but he was kidnapped by Irish bandits and taken to Ireland when he was 16 years old. He later escaped to Gaul (what is now France) and returned to his homeland. So, Patrick is more accurately described as a Celtic Briton, the son of a low-level Roman official.

    •  The “O” in many Irish surnames is a shortening of the word “of.”
    BLARNEY: “O” is actually the Gaelic word for grandson. The British, who colonized Ireland, mistook it for a shortened form of “of” and added the apostrophe.

    •  St. Patrick drove the snakes out of the Emerald Isle into the Irish Sea.
    BLARNEY: Snakes have never been native to Ireland, and Patrick didn’t drive them out. This popular legend may have used the snakes as a metaphor for religions centered on magic and wizardry, many of which used serpent symbols during worship. These religions began to disappear as Christianity spread on the island through the work of missionaries like St. Patrick.

    •  The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade is a tradition that began in Ireland.
    BLARNEY: Actually, it is an American tradition, although St. Patrick’s Day is not a legally instituted holiday anywhere in the U.S. The first parade took place in New York City in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the streets to help inspire unity, assert their presence as immigrants and celebrate their cultural integration.

    •  Leprechauns are cute, mischievous elves in Irish folklore.
    BLARNEY: On the contrary, they were described as nasty, disgruntled and brutish elves who were employed by the Irish fairies as cobblers.

    •  The “luck of the Irish” refers to the abundance of good fortune that has long been enjoyed by the Irish.
    BLARNEY: It actually originated in reference to the “luck” many Irish descendants experienced during the gold and silver rush in America during the 19th century.

    •  Green was always considered a lucky color by the Irish.
    BLARNEY: Originally, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue. Irish folklore says that green was the favorite color of the Good People (the fairies), who were known to steal people — especially children — who wore too much green. So, the color was long thought to be unlucky.

    Linsay Cheney Rudd is the editor of Connect Statesboro. Email her at lcheney@connectstatesboro.com.


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