The Norman Transcript

March 16, 2014

Facts about Saint Patrick’s Day


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The most kids know of St. Patrick’s Day is that you must wear green or you’ll get pinched, and adults associate the day with green beer or other alcoholic beverages. However, few really know what they are celebrating or why the holiday is important.

· Why do we celebrate March 17? In some accounts, this day was the day St. Patrick went to his reward in Glory. Since records of births and deaths weren’t very accurate in the late 4th, early 5th century, it was more likely the date was chosen because it coincided with lent. Sort of like Christmas and December 25.

· Where is the birthplace of St. Patrick? Contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick was not Irish. His ancestry was Roman, but he was born in Scotland or Whales. (Scholars can’t agree on which.) The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Depending on who was in rule and how much land was taken during that rule, land boundaries were often blurred. They would change with the next ruler. Scholars do agree he was shanghaied by Irish pirates while he and some friends played on the beach. At age 16, he was taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. After six years, he escaped and made his way back home. He became a Christian and studied in a monastery. He went back to Ireland as a missionary — Information from Catholic Online, March 2013, bio: true story.

· Myth or fact: St. Patrick was accredited with driving all the snakes from Ireland? According to National Geographic, there were no reptiles at all in Northern Europe until 1000 A.D. simply because it was too cold. Northern Europe today lays claim to only three snakes: the grass snake, the smooth snake and the only venomous snake, the adder. None of these are native to Ireland. The only reptile native to Ireland didn’t arrive until the last 1,000 years. It is a legless lizard. (So much for global warming being a 20th century problem.)

· So where does the legend come from? Scholars suggest the take is symbolic. Serpents are a symbol of evil in Judeo-Christian beliefs (i.e., Adam and Eve’s fall from grace). St. Patrick is accredited with evangelizing all of Ireland, therefore eradicating evil form Ireland — Information from National Geographic 2008.

· Myth or fact: The shamrock is the symbol of Ireland? Though the shamrock is a popular symbol for Ireland, it is not known as the Irish symbol. As early as the medieval period, the harp has appeared on flags, coat-of-arms, gravestones, coins and manuscripts. The harp was also used as a symbol of the Irish people during their long struggle for freedom.

· So how did the shamrock become part of St. Patrick’s Day? The true shamrock has only three leaves. St. Patrick used this simple common weed to explain the Trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to a pagan Ireland. Later, Irish Christians wore the shamrock pinned to their lapel to show they were Christian. There is only a 1:10,000 chanc of actually finding a four-leaf clover. They are a genetic anomaly — Information from Catholic Online.

· One of the most common associations to St. Patrick’s Day is drinking green beer or alcohol of some kind. In truth, Irish law prohibited pubs from even opening for the holiday until 1970. (How far we have fallen.) St. Patrick’s Day was changed from a religious holiday as late as 1970 in Ireland. How sad America perverted it long before that.

This one missionary single-handedly evangelized a whole country. A country, by world views, he should have hated. Because of God’s love, he changed a nation. Is it possible “by God’s love” we as a body of believers, you as a Christian, and me as a child of God can evangelize just one person?

JO CORMIER

Norman

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