Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Happy St. Patrick's Day
And a top o' the morning to all. It's a gorgeous day for a parade. The sun is shining brightly, and the temperature is rising. St. Paddy's Day is a special day for everyone, and you don't have to be Irish to enjoy it. And, I caught a glimpse of some yellow buds on the forsythia tree...my first tangible evidence that spring is finally arriving. Soon the parade will be in full swing. Gosh, and I do have a confession...actually two confessions. First, I've lived in the city where they hold the largest parade in the world, and I have never attended. Just don't like the crowds. And secondly, I cannot stand corned beef and cabbage. The cabbage and potatoes I'll eat, but corned beef? Take it or leave it. I prefer to have a nice Irish Stew with soda bread on the side.
Irish culture has such a rich tradition of legends and myths, and tales have been passed down from one generation to the next...and with each generation, the tale has been embellished some so that now, when we come to St. Patrick's Day traditions, it's hard to draw a line between what is fact and what is fiction.
The Shamrock is Ireland's national emblem...and the symbol of St. Patrick's Day. As the story goes, St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover to explain how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist as three elements in one entity. The shamrock was a sacred plant for the Druids and three was a mystical number in their tradition so it is most probable that he knew of the significance of using the shamrock to illustrate his religious metaphor. There is also a legend that tells of Saint Patrick as standing in a field of shamrocks when he drove the snakes out of Ireland. Of course, there were no snakes in Ireland. This tale also a metaphor, most likely symbolizes the putting to an end of the pagan practice.
One of the most enduring of the Irish tales is that of the Leprechauns and the Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow. Ireland is rich in faery lore, and the Leprechaun has become the best loved of all of Ireland's little creatures. The Blarney Stone in the famous Blarney Castle also has a legend attached to it. Accordingly, the Lord of Blarney was set to make a plea to Queen Elizabeth who was trying to influence him to English rule, and it seems that the poor man did not know what to say. So, a wise woman told him to kiss the Blarney Stone, and he succeeded in in making his plea before the Queen.
The wearing of the color green is another rich St. Patrick's Day tradition. There is nothing mystical about this one. Ireland is a beautiful country, known for its lush green landscape. This is why it is called "The Emerald Isle." Green is actually Ireland's national color. However, there is also a legend that says that the green honors the farmers who burnt green leaves and spread the ask over their fields while others say that green is a celebration of the coming of spring after the long, cruel Irish winter months.
One of the biggest customs identified with St. Patrick's Day is drinking and hangovers. You may not know this, but there is a reason that drinking has become so enmeshed with this day. It seems that Saint Patrick had stopped at an inn where he served a cup of whiskey that was a lot less than full. He decided then to use this as an opportunity to teach the innkeeper a lesson in generosity. So, he told the innkeeper that there was a devil living in the basement...and that this devil was feeding off of the owner's dishonesty...and if the man ever hoped to banish this devil, he would have to change his ways. From then onward, the innkeeper filled his patron's glasses to overflowing.
And with that...may you all have a wonderful Saint Patrick's Day.