Happy St. Patrick's Day! The one day of the year when you can pinch your friends (not wearing green) and get away with it, run around the school yard in search of four-leaf clovers for luck and, seek out leprechauns to lead you to the elusive pot of gold. So who was this saint and how did all these fun traditions begin on the day of his death anniversary? Read on . . . .
Saint Patrick - The Person Responsible For All The Fun
Believe it or not, St. Patrick was not Irish. Born somewhere along the west coast of Britain in 385AD, he was kidnapped and sold to a sheep farmer in Ireland when he was 16 years old. He escaped at the age of 22 and returned to Britain, spending the next 12 years in a monastery. In his early 30's he went back to Ireland, this time as a missionary to convert the pagan Irish people to Christianity and remained there, until his death on March 17th, 461 AD. According to historians, he was largely forgotten until centuries and it was not until the 7th century that he was honored as a Patron Saint of Ireland.
St. Patrick's Day Celebrations
While today St. Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Ireland with the festivities lasting for four days, the first celebration was not held there, but in Boston in 1732, to help Irish soldiers serving in American colonies reconnect with their country. Over the years, the holiday has become popular with people even if they are not of Irish descent. The biggest parade outside Dublin, takes place in New York City.
However, the most fun celebration seems to be in Chicago, where they pour 40lbs. of environmentally-friendly dye into the Chicago River, turning the sparkling blue water into an emerald green for a few hours. Also fun, is the worldwide tradition of coloring some of the world's most iconic buildings like Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa and Sydney's iconic Opera House 'green', using lights. In England, an over-enthusiastic farmer even dyed his sheep green!
Blue Not Green, Was the Original Color
Oddly enough, green was not the original color associated with St. Patrick - It was blue! Green was adopted in the 19th Century because it represents spring, life and most importantly, the shamrock.
As for the 'pinching' tradition, nobody really knows how it began - Some believe it was started because pinching gives a green bruise, while others seems to think it is an American tradition emanating from the myth that wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns - the pinch apparently was a reminder to be vary of these wily creatures.
Finding That Lucky Four-Leaf Clover
In case you don't find that four-leaf clover today, don't fret. Did you know that only one in 10,000 clovers have four leaves? The Irish believe that each leaf means something - The first represents hope, the second faith, the third love and the fourth, happiness. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest number of leaves recorded on a clover leaf is 14!
How to Catch that Sneaky Leprechaun
According to Irish mythology, the leprechaun, (whose name comes from the mixture of 'small person' and 'one shoemaker') is a small fairy that knows the location of a pot of gold. But to get to that, you not only have to find and catch him, but also, threaten him. Apparently, the best way to find this sneaky little guy is to nab him while he is repairing shoes - and even after that be careful, for he is crafty enough to escape!
President Obama is Partly Irish!
Turns out that thanks to his mother's Irish heritage, US President, Barack Obama, is partly Irish. While the President and First Lady have postponed the official St. Patrick's day celebrations until Tuesday when they host the President of Ireland, they did acknowledge it by exchanging shamrocks with White House officials and, dyeing the White House fountain water, green.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!