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Happy St. Patrick's Day

Okay, I'm not Irish. I'm not Catholic. I drink beer occasionally, but have never desired green beer. For some reason, however, I like the concept of St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick's Day is cool. It's been around for a couple hundred years, and it hasn't turned into some ultra commercialized holiday. I spent over $60 on Halloween stuff, and my kids didn't even trick-or-treat. If you're married you better have dropped a wad on Valentine's Day, or you slept on the sofa. Easter and Thanksgiving have less commercial appeal, but ask any grocery store owner the value of tradition on those days. Don't even get me started on Christmas, which now begins in late September.

Unless you own an Irish Pub, St. Patrick's Day isn't extremely commercial. You end up wearing that ugly green tie that Aunt Gertrude gave you in 1978. Some people party hard and sing drinking songs while pounding green beer, but most of us don't. Some cities have parades, particularly those with high Catholic populations in the Northeast, but the parades aren't televised beyond local channels.

It got me thinking, wondering actually, what made St. Patrick worthy of his own Day? I know why Martin Luther King deserves a Day. Washington and Lincoln have to share a Day. St. Valentine invented little folded paper hearts, so I guess that deserves a Day. Columbus got a Day for being very bad at nautical navigation. Jesus gets a couple days each year, but has to share them with an egg-hiding rabbit and a fat chimney sweep in a red velour suit. But what makes a snake charmer from Ireland deserve a day.

So I Googled St. Patrick, and this is what popped up.

Patrick was this dude who was born about 385 A.D., back when clothing was brown and grass was green. He wasn't even a Christian, he was pagan.

So you're an incredibly rich guy back in the day, which only means that you own a horse and a roof that doesn't leak, much. But you need help to sustain your wealth, so you get a bunch of other guys with horses together, and start the recruiting process. Rather than running classified ads in the Sunday paper, you simply ride into town and snatch six or ten strong teenage boys, and make them slaves.

This is what happened to Patrick. During this time he prayed to God, a lot. So would you. Half a dozen years go by, and Patrick (who, by the way, was named Maewyn at the time) escaped. He figured God was his only friend, so he went to stay at God's house, specifically a monastery in Gaul. It was in Gaul that he adopted the Christian name, Patrick.

There he studied over a decade and eventually was appointed the second bishop of Ireland, not the first bishop as many people believe. His personal mission was to convert as many Irish pagans to Christianity as possible. He was incredibly successful, starting churches and schools throughout Ireland.

There are lots of stories about St. Patrick, many of them lore that improve with each telling, and many others that are just complete fiction.

He didn't chase snakes from Ireland. There is no evidence that snakes have ever existed on the Isle. Stories of snakes probably were symbolic of pagans being converted to Christianity.

The Shamrock is a symbol that many attribute to St. Patrick. It's said he used the three leaf version to explain the Holy Trinity. This story could be true, but there isn't a way to prove or dispute it. I'll choose to believe this one.

It's been said that he wore green, but that is unlikely at that time in history. More likely is that the date of St. Patrick's Day is in late spring, symbolized by green.

The date itself, March 17th, is reportedly the date he died (in 461 A.D.) but there is significant doubt as to the year he died, let alone the month and date. More likely is that the date is around the time of the removing of the "cold stone". One of St. Patrick's duties as Bishop would have been to remove the "cold stone" from the river, indicating when it was safe to plant crops. In agricultural societies, this day would have been highly anticipated and celebrated.

I'm not sure if Patrick truly deserves his own Day outside Ireland, but as long as I'm not required by etiquette to do anything beyond wearing green once a year, I'll not object. I look awesome in green anyhow!


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