Happy St. Patrick's Day! Unfortunately it is a Sunday, which means that you cannot pinch your school friends (not wearing green) and get away with it, but there are always unsuspecting family members and neighbors that you can have fun with. Also, be sure to go on an extensive search for those lucky four-leaf clovers and seek out leprechauns that will hopefully lead you to the elusive pot of gold. But before you do all that, don't forget to read about the man whose death anniversary we celebrate and how all these unusual customs began.
Though this day accounts for some of Ireland's biggest celebrations, St. Patrick was not Irish! Born somewhere along the west coast of Britain in 385AD, he was kidnapped and sold to an Irish sheep farmer 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 for hundreds of years and it was not until the 7th century that he was honored as a Patron Saint of Ireland.
While St. Patrick's Day is now a national holiday in Ireland with the festivities lasting for four days, the first celebration was not held there, but in Boston, Massachusetts, 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.
This year the holiday has gone truly global with Europe, North America, Australia, Africa, Middle East and Asia all joining in the fun by illuminating 40 of the world's most iconic structures and attractions ranging from the Pyramids and Sphinx to the London Eye to even the Prince's Palace in Monaco, an emerald 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 the 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 is 14!
Catching the 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. But 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 Prime Minster of Ireland, they did acknowledge it with a special luncheon where they exchanged shamrocks with White House officials and by continuing the age-old tradition of dyeing the White House fountain water, green.