saint patrick’s day

Most days in our lives are normal…ordinary. We get up, go to work, cook meals, got to sleep. It’s all ordinary, and it could be boring, if we let it. I suppose that might be why we have a few special days that are all about fun. Saint Patrick’s Day is one of those days…at least in the United States. Here it is party day. The day of green beer, and a green Chicago River. It a day of wearing green, and getting pinched if you forget. It’s a day for green fingernails and green hair. It’s really just a day to party and have fun. There has to be a few of those kinds of days in life, or it all gets too dull.

Saint Patrick’s Day always reminds me of Spring, which is just a few days away. I suppose that is the main reason…that and wearing green. The days are getting longer, and normally there is less snow. This year seems a little more like April Fools Day to me, however. With a record snowfall of over 26″ and up to 38″ in Colorado, 2,300 flights were cancelled, and pretty much everything was shut down. People began to dig out of their homes and driveways, but where would they go then? The joke was definitely on all of us, but that is a story for another day, say…April Fools Day.

Of course, Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. It is the day that commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, dances, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. It is also a time when Christians who belong to liturgical denominations attend church services and historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption. That the day is tied to the church is not surprising, but the fact that the day is far more celebrated in the United States than it is in Ireland, is at the very least, a little bit strange. Nevertheless, for all who celebrate, Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!!

Saint Patrick’s Day is usually synonymous with celebrations, parades, green beer at the local pub, and of course the “Wearin’ O The Green,” but this year might be very different. Of course, we all know why that is. The current Coronavirus has found most people taking extraordinary measures to avoid being around large groups of people, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, which can have serious symptoms in some patients and rather mild symptoms in others. I think people are trying to do what it takes to be safe.

One of the biggest cancellations is the many Saint Patrick’s Day Parades. Most places don’t want more than 50 people…or 25 people…and even 10 people gathering in public places. Many of the bars and restaurants have been closed, so that eliminates Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Of course, schools and day cares, gyms, hotels and travel industries, casinos, movie theaters, churches, and many businesses, are also closed, so people can’t go to those places to celebrate or even to carry on everyday life. Even the traditional dying or the Chicago River to emerald green for Saint Patrick’s Day has been cancelled. There are places that are open, such as stores, hospitals, and doctors offices, but people are asked to avoid them as much as possible. The idea of a sick person being told to avoid the doctor’s office or hospital is a very strange one. In times past, doctors would not diagnose disease over the phone, but now that is the first line of defense. The medical professionals don’t want people who have the disease to come in and infect other people. In fact, people are told to “quarantine or shelter in place” in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. Testing sites have even become drive-through…a previously unheard-of idea. All of these things have pushed Saint Patrick’s Day to the background of reality.

Nevertheless, I have seen a number of people who have put their own “Wearin’ O The Green” on line, or on television (for people who are in the news, etc), or just at home with their own families. I realize that this virus has dampened the spirits of many people, but deep down inside, there seems to live a victorious spirit within people. They seem to be refusing to allow this to bring about depression. On this Saint Patrick’s Day, I have seen the Ohio Governor Mike DeWine talking about postponing the Ohio Caucus, while wearing a blue suit, green tie, and green hair dye in his hair. Sure, the best case scenario is to be able to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in all of it’s traditions, but the reality of the Coronavirus insists that we do things differently this year. I like that so many people have chosen to celebrate in a social-distancing social media kind of way. I’m glad that people still seem to have a sense of humor, amid the panic. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to one and all!!

Saint Patrick’s Day…a day to celebrate being Irish. For me, Saint Patrick’s Day always felt like a borrowed holiday…probably because I don’t live in Ireland. The reality is that while I don’t live in Ireland, I am part Irish…9% to be exact. With the Irish in my family history, I would have expected my percentage to be for that 9%, but the reality is that most families migrated around the world, and while a family might have been in a country for centuries, they may not have originated there. Nevertheless, I had and still have family who live in Ireland, so I guess that makes me enough Irish to make Saint Patrick’s Day as much my day as it is anyone else’s. In reality, it is a day to remember the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was a missionary who heralded the shift from paganism to Christianity in the fifth century, when he was in his 40s. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on what is believed to be the anniversary of his death…March 17.

It is traditional to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, but why is that? Legend has it that if you’re wearing the color green, the quintessentially Irish, fairy-like creatures called leprechauns won’t be able to see you. And if they can’t see you, they can’t pinch you. Interestingly, before Saint Patrick’s Day got started, leprechauns were known not for wearing green but red. These days, the leprechauns have begun to outsource pinching to the rest of the world, or maybe we just took it over. Even the Irish flag has green in it. It is deeply symbolic. The green represents the Irish Catholics, the orange represents the Protestants and the white represents peace between the two. The green itself is called “shamrock green.” And speaking of shamrocks, shamrocks are one of the national symbols of Ireland, and not without reason. St. Patrick himself used the green, three-leaf clover to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity: one for the father; one for the son; and one for the Holy Spirit. The four-leaf clover is just a symbol of good luck, if you believe in luck. Personally, I prefer blessing over luck.

When a large population of the Irish came to the United States in the mid-1800s, they wore the color green (as well as the Irish flag) as a point of national pride, further solidifying the relationship between the color green and the Irish…in the American imagination anyway. But lets face it, it’s really about the kid in all of us. Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with pinches and shamrock accessories might seem silly, but it can be a great way to spend a day being a little bit on the goofy side. Friendly pinches of those who are forgetful, and show up with no green, is a great way to spend that one day…often still cold and even snowy, having a little bit of silly fun. And then there is the green beer, the green Chicago river, and the green clothing, hair, and beards of our friends.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, my cousin Michael McDaniels and his wife, Deena took his mom, my Aunt Bonnie McDaniels to a celebration in downtown Casper, Wyoming, as part of her birthday celebration. That reminded me about the many times that my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I would run into Aunt Bonnie and her husband, my Uncle Jack at the fair with their grandchildren. They took them every year and the kids had a great time. We would run into them, because we still went to the fair at that time. I always thought it was great that they took their grandkids every year, because lots of kids don’t get to go. Either their parents couldn’t afford it, or just figured the kids could wait until they were old enough to go on their own. Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack’s grandkids didn’t have to worry about that, because they got to go every year.

Aunt Bonnie also loved attending the various events of her grandchildren, and I’m sure she was that way with her kids too. I usually saw her at the track meets at Grant School, where both of our grandchildren went to elementary school. Of course, Uncle Jack had to work in those days, so he didn’t get the pleasure of coming to the track meets. Aunt Bonnie was always so excited about the events, and spent the day cheering her grandson, Anthony McDaniels on to, hopefully, victory. For Aunt Bonnie, her family was everything. She wanted nothing more than to spend time surrounded by them. They were the product of the great love she had for Uncle Jack, and in them, her life was complete.

Aunt Bonnie has blessed many people in her lifetime. Her cakes have graced many a wedding, but it was her smile and her cheerful way that were the real blessing. Every time Bob and I ran into her, oddly most often while grocery shopping at Walmart, she and Uncle Jack were always pleased to run into us, and we always had a nice conversation…even if it was a short conversation. We just always enjoyed running into them. Things are different for Aunt Bonnie now that Uncle Jack has gone to Heaven, but it pleases me to see her kids taking her out to do the fun stuff. It’s almost like going full circle. What she and Uncle Jack did for their kids, they are now doing for her. And what a special treat it must be for her. She got to go to something she wouldn’t have done on her own. Today is Aunt Bonnie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Bonnie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Most of us think of Saint Patrick’s day as a day to celebrate being Irish, and to celebrate even if you aren’t Irish. But this day is actually dedicated to a man who was considered legendary by the Irish people. Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a well-to-do Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the counsel of a voice he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain, where he was eventually reunited with his family.

Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from a book he wrote during his last years, called the Confessio. According to the Confessio, while in Britain, Patrick had another dream, in which an individual named Victoricus gave him a letter. The letter was entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, Patrick seemed to hear the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching the Gospel, converting many thousands of Irish and building churches around the country. After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling, and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.

Since Patrick’s passing, countless legends have grown up around him. The Irish made him the patron saint of Ireland. They say he baptized hundreds of people on a single day, and that he used a three-leaf clover…the famous shamrock…to describe the Holy Trinity. He is often portrayed in art as trampling on snakes, a picture that came with the belief that he drove those reptiles out of Ireland. For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick’s death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. It was a day to be thankful for the man who bought them to the Lord. As holidays often do, the ways of celebrating changed over the years. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762. I’m sure they were doing their best to keep with the tradition of their country. As the years went on, the parades became a show of unity and strength for persecuted Irish-American immigrants, and then a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage.

The rest of the world observed it differently…probably due to the Irish tourism’s efforts to promote their country. The party went global in 1995, when the Irish government began a large-scale campaign to market Saint Patrick’s Day as a way of driving tourism and showcasing Ireland’s many charms to the rest of the world. Today, March 17 is a day of international celebration, as millions of people around the globe put on their best green clothing to drink beer, watch parades and toast the luck of the Irish, but it was never really about luck, you know…it was about blessing. Happy Saint Patrick’s day…and cheers!!

ShamrockOnce a year, on March 17th, the world takes a day to celebrate the wearin’ o’ the green. Saint Patrick’s Day, is really just one of the more fun holidays, that for most of us means nothing more than pinching ayone caught not wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage, or drinking green beer and celebrating with our friends.

If we lived in Ireland, the day would be very different. That is because in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate Saint Patrick, who was the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick lived in Ireland in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, but he wasn’t Irish. He was was a Romano-Briton who was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland (10)Ireland as a slave. Saint Patrick was the kind of man who, made lemonaid out of the lemons he found himself with. While he was enslaved in Ireland, he made it his goal to become a missionary there, and he is credited with bringing Christianity to the country, as a result. In Ireland, that makes the holiday a religious holiday, similar to Christmas and Easter. These days you can find Saint Patrick’s Day parades, shamrocks, and green Guinness beer in Ireland, but it’s mostly there for the tourists who think that is the right way to celebrate the day. For most of the Irish, however it would not be that way, and in fact, up until 1970 Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on Saint Patrick’s Day. That is a stark contrast to the way the day is celebrated here, but it doesn’t mean the same thing to Americans.
Grandma Byer kissing the Blarney Stone
Like many people, I like to eat corned beef and cabbage and pinch those unsuspecting people who have forgotten their green, and while I don’t drink beer…green or otherwise, I like to have fun with the day. But, I also like to reflect a little bit on my Irish roots. I have several parts of my family who came from Ireland, including my Grandma Byer’s family. She wanted to get in touch with her Irish roots too, and so she and her siblings took a trip back to the old country, where they saw the castles, and cemeteries, kissed the Blarney Stone, and visited all the other sites, and I believe they met some of the family who still lives there too. It wasn’t Saint Patrick’s Day when she went, but they really had a good time.

St PatrickMany holidays get their start on the birth or death of someone famous or very special, and Saint Patrick’s Day is no exception. It was the day that Saint Patrick died in Saul, Ireland. I’m sure that wasn’t surprising to anyone. So, the question then becomes, who was Saint Patrick, and why is he being honored?

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary, bishop, and apostle of Ireland, but that in and of itself was not what made him famous. He lived in a time in history when little would be known of a person’s life if no one took the time to write things down. The Internet, Facebook, and Twitter were far off in the very distant future, so people wrote letters and kept journals. Saint Patrick wrote a book that he titled, “Confessio”, during his last year of life, and it is from these writings that we know what we know of him.

Saint Patrick was born in Great Britain probably in Scotland, to a wealthy Christian family of Roman citizenship. At the age of about 16 years, he was captured be Irish marauders and made to be a slave. For the next six years he worked as a herder in Ireland. Due to the long lonely days, far from family and other human companionship, he drew closer and closer to God for comfort. After hearing a voice in a Shamrockdream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship that took him back to Great Britain and his family. Once he was back with his family, he had another dream. In the dream someone named Victoricus gave him a letter entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” He felt like the Irishmen were pleading with him to go back to Ireland.

In 433, he returned to Ireland, after studying to become an ordained Christian minister and started preaching the Gospel. Thousands of Irishmen were converted to Christianity and many churches were built all around Ireland. After 40 years of devoting his life to God and His work, Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461, in the town of Saul, Ireland, which is where he built his first church.

Since his passing, many legends have grown up about him. He was made the patron saint of Ireland, and Saint Patrickpeople say that he baptised hundreds of people in a single day. He is also said to have used a three-leaf clover, which became the famous shamrock to describe the Holy Trinity. He is portrayed as trampling snakes because it is said that he had driven them out of Ireland. The Irish observe the day of his passing as a national holiday, attending church in the mornig and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. Later the rest of the world jumped on board, and the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade was celebrated in the United States, and involved Irish soldiers serving in the English military marching through the streets of New York City in 1762. The parades became a show of unity and strength for the Irish-American immigrants and the party went global in 1995 when the Irish government started a campaign to matket Saint Patrick’s Day as a way of driving tourists to Ireland. Today, March 17th is still celebrated by millions of people, many of whom probably have no idea what this man stood for. It’s something to think about for sure. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

Ah, here it comes…the wearin’ of the green, corned beef and cabbage, and green beer for those who like that…Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a day for partying…and pinching for those who forget to wear green. Most people look at Saint Patrick’s Day as just another party day. And I enjoy the pinching games and the corned beef and cabbage, but I’ll leave the green beer for others.

One thing that Saint Patrick’s Day does make me think of, however, is my Irish background. I think most of us have a little Irish background, and some have a lot. You can usually find it by the last names, like Bob’s grandmother, whose name before her marriage was Leary, or my great grandmother, whose maiden name was Shaw. Many of these ancestors really never knew very much of their Irish roots, because their families have been in the United States for centuries. I don’t remember either of these grandmothers ever mentioning Irish roots, or being particularly Irish.

Still, many people whose Irish traditions, or any other traditions common to their countries, have been passed down from generation to generation, feel a deep attachment to the past and to their roots. Anytime you look back at your family history, you can’t help but feel the beginnings of an attachment to a different time and a different place. It’s easy to envision what life might have been like then. Days before cars and planes, when people traveled by horse and buggy. Days when moving to a new country meant leaving your family behind forever…never to see them again.

Travel wasn’t so easy then. And yet brave people like our ancestors, who wanted to have a better life, set out into the unknown. They had no idea what they would find out there, but they set aside their fears and went anyway. They were pioneers, and were it not for them, we would not be where we are today, or have what we have today. They are also the inventors. Someone had to come up with all of the modern conveniences that we have today. They were people with that same pioneer spirit. What would our world be like without those people and people like them. People who carried their traditions into a new world, or people who came to the new world and started traditions of their own.

Much of my background is German and English, but there is some Irish, and the Irish family members that I have had the pleasure of knowing were very much a treasure as valuable as the emerald colored hills of the old country. So I’ll carry on the tradition today. Wearin’ the green, and pinching those who forget, and eating corned beef and cabbage with loved ones. Because, today…everybody is a little bit Irish. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all.

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