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Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 and in much of the world it is treated as a day of drinking and revelry. However, until the 1970s there was a mandate that ordered pubs closed on March 17 in Ireland.

Here are some interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day:

• Have you ever heard the story of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland? St. Patrick was supposed to have stood up on a hilltop and raised a wooden staff and driven all of the snakes from Ireland. Well, here’s the scoop. There were never any snakes in Ireland. The whole story is a metaphor that represents the transformation that took place in Ireland when Christianity triumphed over the pagan religions that were the earlier traditions of that land.

• And what about corned beef and cabbage? It used to be that after going to church on March 17 Irishmen and women then feasted on a traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. Where’s the corned beef? Well, that tradition started in New York when Irish immigrants started eating corned beef rather than the Irish bacon because corned beef was cheaper.

• Shamrocks, or a three-leafed clover also known as “seamroys” by the Celts, were a sacred plant in ancient Ireland that symbolized the rebirth of spring. Some people believe that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol of the trinity in Christianity, but there’s no proof of that. Eventually the shamrock came to be a symbol of nationalism over English rule and later was adopted as the national emblem of the country.

• Leprechauns? They probably originated in Celtic folklore with the belief in fairies. They were known as “lobaircin,” meaning a small bodied fellow. They were not major players in the folklore, they were mostly responsible for repairing other fairies’ shoes and dabbling in trickery. They were known to be a bit cantankerous. And they have nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but most people think they do. The version most people know of leprechauns and associate with St. Patrick’s Day is the one that Walt Disney brought about in the 50s of a cute little cheerful guy. But this is a completely American idea.

—From the History Channel (www.historychannel.com)

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