March 17th is St. Patrick's Day, something that is definitely observed in my part of the world, where Irish traditions are prevalent.
To many people around here, St. Patrick's Day means green beer. There is just something about a bit of green food coloring to draft beer that gives you a whole other reason to celebrate life and freedom it seems.
As it turns out, St. Patrick's Day is a little more than that. It is, apparently a religious holiday, dedicated to the Saint Patrick, a patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick was born in Britain in 387. At 16 years of age, he was captured by Irish raiders and held captive as a slave in Ireland. At some point in his captivity, he was told in a dream that he should flee back to Britain. He did, and once back home, he became a priest. He felt called to return to Ireland however, and in 432 he went back. He is accredited with bringing Christianity to much of the country. Some stories claim St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. It seems likely there never were snakes there in the first place, since Ireland was cut off from the rest of the continent by the end of the Ice Age, so perhaps it was more symbolic of him driving out the snakes of pagan practices. Perhaps there was green beer afloat even back then, hence the stories got more than a little mixed up!
The symbol for St. Patrick's day is often the Shamrock. It is said that St. Patrick used the three leaved Shamrock as a teaching aid to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. This story seems a little changed in the translation as well, as the shamrock now seems to represent luck and good fortune more than classical religion.
A quick check on the Internet will reveal that the origin of the symbol of green to represent St. Patrick's Day, may be a little suspicious as well. Some accounts say blue was more the color associated with St. Patrick, but over the years this was changed to green, which now seems to represent all things Irish. Green also resonates with the heart chakra and love of self and others. That alone seems worth celebrating.
Leprechaun's are very connected with St. Patrick's day although they have little if no connection to St. Patrick himself. I like those little guys- kind of like Pixie's. It is said that if you catch a Leprechaun they will grant you three wishes, if you agree to release them. How they get these wishes, or the pot of gold they seem to sometimes possess, is unclear. Their main occupation is said to be making shoes, but for some reason they never make a pair of shoes- only one. No connection between shoe making and pots of gold that I could find. Leprechauns do seem to like to organize feasts and often live in farmhouses and wine cellars. Hmm.. back to the green beer again? One of the reasons I like Leprechauns is that they are mischievous. They aren't the totally good type of fairy so common in folklore, nor are they totally bad or evil. They just "are" and it seems, they respond according to how you treat them. I like that.
One common theme, through all of the somewhat confusing traditions of St. Patrick's Day, is that it is a celebration of spiritual renewal. That sounds like a good thing and something we can all agree on, whatever our core beliefs and values. It seems like the world could really use some "spiritual renewal" today so here's to it!
In my opinion, the Irish have a wonderful way with words. Their language is full of poems, lyrics, and songs. Every morning when I was a kid, one of the first things I saw was The Irish Blessing- Author Unknown. It was hanging in our kitchen. To me it represents love, nature's presence, and a perhaps a bit of "the luck of the Irish"!
May the road rise 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.
May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!