There is no other time of year when it is easier to find a party than St. Patrick’s day. People will be wearin’ the green, adorned by four-leaf clovers and they’ll be drinking green beer. Let’s face it. St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, is the one day when everyone can claim to be Irish. The thing is, like the majority of the “Irish for a day” folk, most of what we know surrounding St. Patrick’s Day is…well, BLARNEY!
The Irish are truly great story weavers. They really do have the gift of blarney. According to Wikipedia the word blarney has come to mean “clever, flattering, or coaxing talk”. If you have every dated an Irish lad you know this to be fact.
As children we are told of the hero of the piece driving the snakes from Ireland. In fact, in religious lore the snake represented evil (you know that whole snake offering the apple to Adam thing). St. Patrick, having devoted his life to converting the pagans to Christians was considered to have driven “evil” out of Ireland.
Probably the biggest misconception of all is that…dare I say it…that Patrick was Irish. In reality, he was not.
In the Monday, March 12, 1995, Toronto Star, Travel Editor Mitchell Smith explained:
“It is not widely known that “Saint Patrick” was Roman not Irish and his real name was Sucat. Somewhere around 405 AD Sucat, as a lad, was taken prisoner and then sold into slavery in Ulster. For 6 years the Christian slave Sucat worked as a sheep herder. When he escaped he returned to Britain. Later he went to France where he eventually became a priest. At this point Sucat became Patrick and in his Confessio claimed he had a dream of Irish voices begging him to return. When he set sail to return to Ireland he was headed for the area he had been kept a slave, however as they say, with the luck of the Irish he was blown off course and then captured by some local peasants. He wasted no time in converting his pagan Irish captors to Christianity, starting with their leader.”
The 4 leaf clover is not, I repeat, not a shamrock.
Of course the most obvious difference is that the 4 leaf clover has, wait for it…4 leaves. The shamrock has 3. Although clover is most often found in nature with three leaves, rare four-leaf clovers do exist. Finding one is thought to bring someone extreme luck. The folklore surrounding four-leaf clovers is that each leaf of a four-leaf clover represents something different: first is hope; the second is faith; the third is love; and the fourth is happiness.
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock with its three leaves to visually illustrate the concept of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) when trying to convert pagans to Christianity.
If ever anything apart from the shamrock is associated with Ireland and the Irish it must be Guinness, the national drink. With its famous black body and soft creamy head, it is an icon of Ireland and its people — strong, smooth unhurried and extremely palatable. And no self-respecting Irish person would ever drink green beer.
Speaking of dying things green…I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone came up with the idea to dye the Chicago River green. I know there has to be a a tale of blarney behind that one. Don’t get me wrong. My favourite colour is green but I would have to draw the line on this one.
As for the wearing of the green, many simply believe it referred to wearing a shamrock, but an American tradition of pinching those not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day was started in the 1700s in Boston, Massachusetts. It really has nothing to do with Ireland or St. Patrick. They thought if you wore green, it made you invisible to the Leprechauns, which was good because they would pinch anyone they could see. So the pinching is to warn and remind you about the Leprechauns.
OK, don’t get me started on these little guys…
One of my favourite parts of St. Patrick’s Day (apart from all of the above) is getting to see the wee Irish dancers. When I was much younger I longed to join them with their wonderful bouncing curls. It was quite the blow when I found out that even their curls were just another part of the blarney.
The absolute best stories are always based in some truth. The more you weave fact with fiction the better the chances your audience will not be able to tell the difference. The Irish are truly great story weavers. The masters of the tall tale. They really do have the gift of blarney. Much like most of us bloggers.
May your glass
be ever full.
May the roof over your
head be always strong.
And may you be
in heaven half an hour
Before the Devil knows