"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids

Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick's Day, March 17th, is a national Irish holiday honoring Saint Patrick, the missionary credited with converting all the people of Ireland to Christianity in the 5th century. Saint Patrick was born around 373-385 A.D. in either Scotland or Wales. His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat. His father, Calphurnius, was a Roman official in Britain.

The boy who would become Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and sold as a slave in Ireland. During his six-year captivity, he tended sheep for his master, who may have been a Druidic high priest. The boy dreamed of freedom, and began to find strength in prayer. He finally escaped and sailed on a ship to France, where he studied at a monastery and took on the name Patrick after he became a priest.

When he was about 60 years old, Patrick became troubled by visions of the Irish people’s suffering and hardship. Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 A.D. as a missionary intent on liberating the nation from paganism. He was armed with only courage and conviction, a Bible in one hand and a staff in the other. His mission was to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and convert the Celts to Catholicism. It is said that Patrick had an unusually charming personality, which helped him win converts.

Patrick changed the course of Irish history, as Catholicism became the major religion in Ireland. Patrick became a hero and the patron saint of Ireland. In fact, there are about sixty churches and cathedrals named for him in Ireland alone. One of the most famous is Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, whose grounds mark the place where Saint Patrick baptized his converts.

Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, that they all went into the sea and drowned. There were no snakes native to Ireland, but the snake was a revered pagan symbol and perhaps this was a figurative tale alluding to the fact that he drove paganism out of Ireland.

After the barbarians overran Europe in the 500’s and 600’s, devout Irish monks kept Christianity alive. They copied down the religious scriptures by hand in beautifully illustrated books called illuminated manuscripts. One of these is the famous Book of Kells. The Secret of Kells gives a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells.

The first American celebration of Saint Patrick's Day was in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. Schoolchildren started the tradition of pinching classmates who don't wear green on this holiday.

To learn more about Saint Patrick, read Saint Patrick and the Peddler by Margaret Hodges, an appealing folktale with idyllic paintings by Paul Brett Johnson. The Veggie Tales "Sumo Of The Opera" DVD also features an entertaining short subject on Saint Patrick.

Leprechauns and Pots of Gold

The story of Saint Patrick has more to do with commitment to Christ than it ever did with leprechauns and pots of gold. Nevertheless, Leprechauns somehow became associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. According to legend, Leprechauns are Irish fairies. They are supposedly unsociable and unfriendly, and they possess a hidden pot of gold. If a Leprechaun is caught, then he must tell where his treasure is.

Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day is the one national holiday that is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other. It seems like everyone wants to be Irish! However, St. Patrick's Day was originally considered to be a holy day in Ireland and there were no parades or festivities, and no wearin’ o’ the green. Consequently, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland always paled in comparison to other places. Then in 1996, a group of creative Irish individuals set out to change the perception of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and start a whole new tradition. This St. Patrick’s Day Festival has since grown to become the largest annual celebration of Irishness anywhere in the world. St. Patrick’s Festival is a uniquely Irish carnival of music, street theatre, fireworks, dance, pageants and parades.

The Emerald Isle

Ireland is an island that lies west of Great Britain, between the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ireland is a land of wild seacoasts and misty rolling hills – so green than it is sometimes called the Emerald Isle. The Irish name for the island is Eire.

The Irish people are descended mainly from Celtic tribes that settled in Ireland more than 2,000 years ago. Ancient Celtic folklore consists of ballads and legends. The Irish people have always been known for their wit and imagination, and Irish authors have written many famous poems, songs, and stories. The ancient Celtic language, Gaelic, is the official language of Ireland but most people also speak English.

Millions of Americans have ancestors who once lived in Ireland. My mother-in-law, Rose Fitzgerald Olsen, was raised in an Irish Catholic suburb of Boston. Her mother lived in Donegal, Ireland for a period of time. Each year many tourists visit Ireland’s friendly people, ancient castles, quaint countryside, and whitewashed stone cottages with thatched roofs.

Farming, fishing, and food processing are Ireland’s most important industries. Cattle, sheep, and horses graze in green pastures. Potatoes, pigs, and poultry thrive. Barley, oats, and hay also grow well, along with turnips and sugar beets. Irish whiskey and woolen goods are exported to other parts of the world.

Irish melodies are often moody and haunting, such as in songs by Enya. Celtic harp music is very beautiful. Another famous Irish instrument is the uilleann pipe, similar to a Scottish bagpipe. Irish step dancing - based on the famous Irish jig - has become popular all over the world, thanks to shows such as “Riverdance,” and "Lord of the Dance," which involve a lot of fancy footwork and are fun to watch.

Two of my favorite movies about Ireland are The Secret of Roan Inish and The Quiet Man, both of which were filmed on location in northern Ireland. The Secret of Roan Inish is a magical tale based on an ancient Irish legend about a boy raised by seals. “Roan Inish” is Gaelic for “Island of the Seals.”

The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne, is not just for John Wayne fans. It’s interesting how they portray the proper Irish way of courtship – obtaining the family's permission first, making an official announcement, and having a chaperone along at all times.

In both of the above movies, whenever a guest enters someone's home they say "May God bless all in this house." I wonder if that's an Irish custom? If so, it's a good one!

Did You Know…? The Celts who lived in Ireland invented Halloween about 2,500 years ago. They also invented jack-o-lanterns, which were originally made out of turnips. When Irish people immigrated to America about 150 years ago, they started making their jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins instead.

Shades of Green - It is said that there are 40 shades of green in Ireland. Tints and shades of green include the following: apple-green, aquamarine, avocado, celadon, celery-green, chartreuse, beryl-green, blue-green, bottle-green, emerald, forest-green, grass-green, holly-green, ivy-green, jade, jungle-green, Kelly green, lime, meadow-green, mint-green, moss-green, olive-green, Paris green, pea-green, pine-green, sage, sea-green, shamrock-green, spinach-green, spring-green, spruce, teal, and yellow-green. I listed 33 different kinds of green. Can you think of any more?

Shamrock Symbolism - Shamrock is the common name for any one of several unrelated herbaceous plants with trifoliate leaves (such as the three-leafed clover). White clover was the original shamrock of Ireland. Saint Patrick used the shamrock leaf as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Trinity (Father/Son/Holy Spirit). A shamrock leaf is worn on March 17th to commemorate Saint Patrick's Day. (By the way, finding a four-leaf clover on St. Patrick’s Day is double the good luck it usually is!)

What is a Saint?

A saint is a person recognized as having lived an exceptionally good and holy life. In the early days of Christianity, all Christians who died and were certain to be in heaven with God were called saints. The term was later applied only to Christian martyrs (people who died for their faith) or Christian holy persons. Protestant churches do not officially venerate saints. The best-known saints are those of the Catholic Church. By the 1000’s, the Catholic churches had established a process called canonization. In the canonization process, a person’s life is thoroughly investigated to see if the claims made about his holiness were true. Once these things have been proved, the person is officially named a saint of the Catholic Church. There are more than 10,000 Catholic saints. Each saint has his own feast day on which he is especially remembered. Catholics believe that saints have the power to intercede to God on their behalf. For this reason, some people pray to saints – not to worship them, but to ask or thank them for help from heaven. Many children are named for saints whom their parents hope they will resemble. Saint Patrick is one of the world’s most popular saints. Some other famous saints are Saint Valentine, Saint Nicholas, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Joan of Arc.

What is a Patron Saint?

Patron saints are supposed to be special protectors or guardians over certain occupations, hobbies, sports, causes, illnesses, churches, states, countries, etc. The choice of saint is based on an interest, talent, or event in the saint’s life which relates to something that is important to us. For example, Francis of Assisi loved nature and animals, so he is the patron saint of ecologists, humane societies and animal welfare leagues. Find your patron saints at www.catholic-forum.com/saints/patron00.htm.

An Irish Blessing – “May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.”

May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day.
May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.
May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue.
And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.
~Irish Blessing

Mini-Kissed Shamrock Cookies
(Chocolate cookies shaped like the famous Irish symbol.)

1 package (22.3 oz.) golden sugar cookie mix
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
Shamrock Frosting (recipe follows)
Hershey's Mini Kisses chocolate baking pieces

Heat oven to 350º F. Combine cookie mix and cocoa in large bowl. Add oil, eggs and water; mix well with spoon. Dough will clump together and be easy to handle. Shape dough into balls, using about one level teaspoon of dough for each ball. Cluster four balls together on ungreased cookie sheet to form shamrock; flatten each leaf slightly. Shape one ball into stem shape and tuck under bottom of leaves. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Outline shamrock and stem with shamrock frosting. Place a small amount of frosting in center of cookie. Press Mini Kiss in center. Makes about 30 cookies.

Shamrock Frosting

Combine 1 tbsp. softened butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp. hot milk or light cream, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 2 or 3 drops of green food color. Mix until smooth.


(A pretty St. Patrick's page with poems, songs, traditions, toasts, superstitions, Irish sayings and humor, recommended readings and links.)

(St. Patrick's Day art and craft projects.)

(St. Patrick's history, customs, traditions, and links.)

(Everything Irish: surnames, songs, jokes, proverbs, blessings, photos, genealogy, how to learn Gaelic, and more.)


These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
All rights reserved.

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