It is said the on March 17th, everyone is Irish. We all wear green, drink beer and practice our best brogues.

But just who was St. Patrick? And do they really turn the Chicago River and the fountains in Savannah green?

If you want to know more about things Irish, you have come to the right page. There are blarney stones, leprechauns and celtic crosses that await!

Erin Go Bragh!

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According to history, St. Patrick was born about 385 AD in Roman Britannia, and was taken to Gaul as a youth, where he entered a monastery. In 432 AD he returned to Ireland as a missionary and converted hundreds to Christianity and baptised them on a spot marked at the cathedral named for him in Dublin. According to legend, he drove all of the snakes off the island. The three-leafed clover, or shamrock, is closely associated with him because he used it as an illustration of the Trinity. There are now nearly 60 churches in Ireland named for him. Did you know that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was not Irish at all? It is believed that he was born in the year 385 C.E. to an Italian father and a Scottish mother.
The Celtic Cross combines the symbol of the cross with a circle that encloses the intersection. It is believed to be a Christian variation fo the sun cross. In the sun cross, however, the arms of the cross do not extend beyond the boundary of the circle. There is also some resemblance to the ankh of ancient Egypt. Many believe that St. Patrick purposefully used this symbol to bridge the gap between the pagans and the Christians, makeing conversion to the new religion a little more palatable.
St. Patrick's Day is a feast day in the Roman Catholic Church and is a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland. The feast day usually falls during Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. If it falls on a Friday of Lent (unless it is Good Friday), the obligation to abstain from eating meat (usually corned beef) can be lifted by the local bishop. What about all of that green? Interestingly, it is a dark blue that is most often associated with St. Patrick. The wearing of the green, a sign of Irish nationalism, referred to a shamrock worn on your lapel. Today, the color green stands for Ireland, known as the Emerald Isle, and has translated into a sea of green clad revelers at bars and parades.
Boston held the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in the U.S. in 1737. But it is Savannah, Georgia that claims to have the largest attendance with over 750,000 in 2006. Since St. Patrick's Day is not an official holiday in America, many cities move their parades to the nearest weekend. Not Savannah. The parade takes place on the actual day even if it is a work day. The route travels through the historic park district of the old ctiy. So each year the city witnesses the "dyeing of the fountains" several days before the actual festivities.
But talk about a dye job! The city of Chicago goes all out for St. Patrick's Day. The Chicago River is dyed green for several hours on that day. As the story goes the idea came from an accident that occured when a chemical used by plumbers to trace illegal substances that were polluting the river turned the water a flourescent green. Now an eco-safe vegetable dye is used so as not to harm the river wild life.
Many legends followed the Irish immigrants to the new world. The most well-known is, of course, that little guy who is known as a leprechaun. They are often depicted as old men who are up to all sorts of mischief. By trade, they are cobblers who are quite wealthy with many crocks of treasure stored about the countryside. Should you happen to see a leprechaun, keep your eyes fixed upon him. As long as you watch him he cannot escape. But glance away just for a second... and he is gone! The Boston Celtics have a leprechaun as their mascot leaning against a shillelegh. This loaded club, about the size of a walking stick, was used to subdue enemies.
Have you ever wanted to wax poetic? Wondered what it would be like if pearls of wisdom were to roll off of your tongue? Well, legend says, if your lie on your back and kiss a particular block of limestone built into Blarney Castle you will receive the gift of gab! Why this particular stone? The stories abound! It could be the stone that Jacob used as a pillow and was brought to Ireland by Jeremiah. Or it could be the stone that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites while fleeing Egypt. There is only one way to know if the legend is true. Pucker up! And you might want to bring along some antiseptic wipes.