St. Patrick

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. I confess, I’m not Irish. But then again neither was St. Patrick. He was actually British. Nonetheless, I will wear green today. I might enjoy a meal of corned beef and cabbage. I will certainly speak kindly to any leprechauns I meet today. Like many others, I will celebrate the memory of the 5th century Catholic Priest and missionary to Ireland who is credited with bringing Christianity to the then pagan nation.  

Patrick supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland, which is awfully convenient for him considering Ireland never had snakes to begin with. (It’s more than likely that the “snakes” were a metaphor for pagans and non-believers.)

Initially, St. Patrick’s Day was a religious feast that didn’t involve consuming copious amounts of booze, but over the year it has evolved into a generalized celebration of all things “Irish,” especially if debauchery counts in your book.

While St. Patrick’s Days is primarily an ‘Irish’ celebration, it is by no means limited to Ireland proper. Communities around the world pause to ‘celebrate’ the Patron Saint of Ireland

In New London, Minnesota leprechauns crawl around the city and change all the signs to “New Dublin” for the day — even on the highway. Apparently, this tradition stems from the wave of Irish immigration that fundamentally altered New London’s previously German cultural profile in the 19th century. The leprechauns (members of the local Shamrock Club) go on to visit hospitals and schools.

Talk about a rude awakening: the Paddy’s Day Plunge of Portland, Maine, involves jumping into the freezing Atlantic Ocean at 5:30 a.m. Those who brave the early alarm, and the frigid waters then enjoy a free Irish breakfast, a live auction, and a raffle at a nearby restaurant. All for a good cause as the event donates proceeds to charity. 

No one throws a parade like New Orleans, the city flocks down to the Irish Channel neighborhood for a veritable street party. New Orleans might be the only place where you can take part in a vegetable food fight too. Think: all the ingredients that go in Irish stew (especially cabbages), minus the beef. This ceremonial throwing of the cabbages (using an underhanded technique), so no one gets hurt) is meant to memorialize how cabbage replaced potatoes during the potato famine, thus becoming a staple of Irish cuisine. 

The Caribbean Island of Monserrat, home to a sizable Irish Catholic population since the 17th century, is the only place in the world outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. Montserrat’s celebration isn’t just generously proportioned — it lasts for 10 days! In addition to celebrating the saint, the day also commemorates a slave rebellion and includes a calypso competition and Creole food, blending the island’s Irish and African heritage.

Along with a traditional parade, residents of Brussels, Belgium play Irish sports such as Gaelic football, hurling and camogie on March 17. And if you feel like dusting off your sports attire later and cleaning up, head to the black tie St. Patrick’s Day Ball, where you can toast during a champagne reception. It’s unclear whether the champagne is green or not, however.

Interestingly, St. Patrick celebrations aren’t even limited to Earth. In 2013, a Canadian astronaut aboard the International Space Station wore green, took a photo of Ireland from space and posted a video of himself singing “Danny Boy.” 

Whether you are Irish or not, let me close with a traditional Irish blessing.

“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” 

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