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Fun with Folklore: Discover IrishTraditions on St. Patrick's Day

This St. Patrick’s Day, immerse yourself in a little Irish tradition. Learn about the culture's symbols and folklore and feast on some traditional foods.

By Brienna McWade

Who was Saint Patrick?  Per History.com: "St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland, are false, the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.” A bunch of blarney, if you will.

Born into a wealthy British family, Saint Patrick was imprisoned at a young age as Irish natives raided his family home. During his imprisonment, he turned to Christianity for solace and after six years, escaped to Britain by walking 200 miles from County Mayo to the Irish Coast. Once in Britain, he had a vision that an angel told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Saint Patrick became ordained as a priest and went to Ireland to minister to and convert the Irish people who largely believed in a nature-based pagan religion.

It is believed that Saint Patrick created the Celtic Cross by superimposing a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the traditional cross to appeal more natural to the Irish people.

What is "Blarney?" A popular expression to imply false storytelling.

What does "Erin go Bragh" mean? It’s a popular expression meaning “Ireland Forever."

Did you know that the Chicago River is dyed green every year for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Why the color green?  Saint Patrick was originally associated with the color blue, though green ribbons and shamrocks were worn as early as the 17th century. Its color is taken from the shamrock, whose three leaves are believed to stand for the Holy Trinity. “Wearing of the green” became a phrase to indicate wearing a shamrock and speak against Irish paganism.

Why a shamrock or clover?  Irishmen to this day do not agree to what the real shamrock is. Several plant varieties are considered to be the authentic symbol of this celebrated holiday. It is a sacred plant from ancient Ireland, symbolizing the "rebirth of spring."

Where does the leprechaun character stem from?  It is likely that the leprechaun, meaning "small-bodied fellow," originated with the Celtic beliefs of fairies. The leprechaun was a cranky man who was responsible for mending fairy shoes. They played a minor role in Celtic folklore but were known for their trickery, used to protect a much-fabled treasure.

A cheerful, friendly leprechaun is an American take on this classic character, which may have originated from Disney’s film "Darby O’Gill & the Little People."

Try these classic meals for St. Patrick’s Day tradition:

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Irish Soda Bread

Beef and Irish Stout Stew

Class of 74 March 17, 2014 at 11:56 AM
corned beef and ca bbage was fed to the Irish laborers who built the Erie Canal. It was cheap and unacceptable to the Nativist population.
Tom Ontis March 17, 2014 at 02:19 PM
Me grandmother's house really smelled every March 17th.
jks March 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM
The original Irish food was pork and potatoes, corned beef was substituted because it was a less expensive cut of meat, but it was tough. They marinated the beef in a brine to tenderize it and served it with cabbage and potatoes.
Bob Howard March 18, 2014 at 01:35 PM
Instead on focusing on green rivers & green beer (or faux Irish traditions), perhaps we should focus on the origin of St. Patrick's Day AS A HOLIDAY in this Country. George Washington's Continental Army contained many Irish Americans who fought for American independence. And the Winter of 1779/80 was a severe one (w 28 documented snowfalls); not unlike the current one that appears to finally be over. So on March 17, 1780, in a gesture of support and solidarity with the Irish (who were also in the middle of their own struggle for independence from the British crown), General Washington announced that St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, would be a holiday for the Continental Army.
Sayona April 13, 2014 at 01:25 PM
Thank You, Bob Howard. Came across this late- and just learned something. A nice break from all the arguing ---wisdom.

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