Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day

Well… it’s become a bit of a tradition here at Kemp’s Blog; lively posts about holidays.

Today is Friday, March 17th… also known as St. Patrick’s Day. A day of celebrating the drinking of green beer…

While I have talked (at great lengths) about my Spanish ancestry, my other roots are British and Irish (my first name Kemp is an old Celtic name that means ‘warrior’ & ‘champion’)

And while I may not drone on and on about my Brit-Irish roots, I am proud of them and do celebrate them on St. Paddy’s Day. So without further ado, here’s my St. Patrick’s Day post… enjoy.

Historical background on St. Patrick’s Day

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385 with the given name of Maewyn. At the age of 16, Maewyn, who had considered himself a Pagan, was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that had raided his village… it was at this time in captivity that he became closer to God and when he escaped from slavery after six years, he went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain (the Bishop of Auxerre) for a period of twelve years.

His wishes were to return to Ireland and to convert the native pagans to Christianity. Instead, his superiors appointed St. Palladius, who, two years later, was transferred to Scotland.

Patrick, having adopted that Christian name earlier, was then appointed as second bishop to Ireland.

Patrick proved himself to be very successful at winning converts, a fact that upset the Celts who had Patrick arrested several times… but saw him escape each and every time.

Patrick traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country and setting up schools and churches that would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.

His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years after which Patrick retired to County Down where he died on March 17, 461 AD.

That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.

The first St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in the U.S. in 1737 in the city (and this should come as a surprise to no one) of Boston.

Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day with very little of it actually substantiated.

Originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has now evolved into more of a secular holiday.

Historical background of Leprechauns

The Leprechaun is an Irish fairy that looks like a little old man (“He’s very clean”) and is often dressed like a shoemaker, complete with cocked hat and leather apron.

Leprechauns have very little to actually do with St. Patrick's Day's.

In Irish legend, leprechauns are a far cry from their happy-go-lucky modern counterparts as they were generally seen as bad-tempered spirits that were capable of great mischief.

According to legend, leprechauns are aloof, unfriendly, live alone, and pass their time making shoes.

They also possess hidden pots of gold. In fact, treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer and, if caught, they can be forced (with the threat of bodily harm) to reveal the location of their treasure. But the captor must keep their eyes on him at every second for if the captor's eyes leave the leprechaun, they vanish and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost (d’oh!)

While they did have pots of gold that they would have to relinquish if a human caught them, the leprechaun was likely to come after you later to get revenge.

Legend has it that you can find the leprechaun, along with his pot of gold, at the end of a rainbow.

Inane St. Patrick’s Day trivia…

  • The traditional shamrock icon came from an old Irish tale that told of how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, using it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity.
  • The shamrock is a type of small herb with leaves made up of three leaflets and is the common name for any of several types of three-leafed clovers that are native to Ireland.
  • The Irish have considered shamrocks as good luck symbols for centuries and it has now become the national symbol of Ireland.
  • St. Patrick didn’t drive any snakes out of Ireland, (mainly because no snakes were ever native to Ireland… but that’s besides the point) This is said to be a metaphor for his conversion of the pagans.
  • Today, people celebrate the holiday with parades, wearing of the green, and drinking beer.

Did you know?

  • that the song "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" isn't a popular Irish ballad? It was actually composed by an American?
  • that during the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s, 75% of Irish immigrants landed in New York?
  • that Corned beef and cabbage is not a favorite St. Patrick's Day dish in Ireland (they prefer ham or bacon) but rather in the U.S.?
  • that St. Patrick's Day parades have a history that goes back hundreds of years, but they didn't originate in Ireland? The parade in Dublin has a scant 50-year history, while those in Montreal and New York City go back almost 200 and 300 years respectively.
  • that close to 34 million U.S. residents claim some Irish ancestry?
  • that a shillelagh (pronounced shah-lay-lee) is a stout walking stick?

Kemp’s Top 6 Irish Authors

  1. James Joyce
  2. George Bernard Shaw
  3. Samuel Beckett
  4. William Butler Yeats
  5. Jonathan Swift
  6. Oscar Wilde

Kemp’s Top Ten St. Patrick’s Day movies

10. The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns
09. St. Patrick's Day
08. The Matchmaker
07. The Secret of Roan Inish
06. St. Patrick: The Irish Legend
05. Luck of the Irish
04. The Fugitive (it has a scene during the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade, so it makes the cut)
03. Finnian’s Rainbow
02. Darby O’Gill & The Little People
01. The Quiet Man

Not listed in the Top 10 and for a damn good reason: ‘Leprechaun’, ‘Leprechaun 2’, ‘Leprechaun 3’, ‘Leprechaun 4 in Space’, ‘Leprechaun in the Hood’ and ‘Leprechaun: Back 2 da Hood’

Kemp’s Recipe for an Old Mr. Boston's Irish Shillelagh

  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 ½ oz. Irish whiskey
  • ½ oz. sloe gin
  • ½ oz. rum

One ounce is equal to one shot of hard alcohol. In a mixer, combine the lemon juice, whiskey, sloe gin and rum. Shake the ingredients with crushed ice and strain into an old fashioned glass. Add fruit for garnish. Sliced peaches, raspberries or strawberries are recommended

Kemp’s Favorite Irish Blessings

Whatever your libation, you'll want to memorize a few standard Irish toasts for the occasion. Here are some of the more popular ones. Practice saying them with an Irish accent to impress your guests."May your glass be ever fullMay the roof over your head be always strongAnd may you be half an hour in heaven before the devil knows you're dead."

“May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door."

"May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
The sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand."

"Health, and long life to you,
Land without rent to you,
The partner of your heart to you,
And when you die,
may your bones rest in Ireland!"

Kemp's Gratuitouos St. Patrick's Day pic.

This is an image of the Chicago River after it had been dyed green for the city's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade: