St. Patrick’s Day

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Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland, wasn’t born in Ireland, nor was he of Irish descent.

St. Patrick's Day

March 17th was not his birthday. His name was not Patrick. He wasn’t raised to be religious, and he had very little education. He didn’t drive any snakes out of Ireland. The colour green, usually associated with St. Paddy’s Day, was not the colour Patrick favoured. The shamrock is not the national symbol of Ireland. The Irish did not drink alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Maewyn Succa, or St. Patrick, as we know him, was born in Britain around AD 385. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, Roman citizens living in either Scotland or Wales. When he was 16 years old he was captured by Irish pirates who brought him to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. For six years he tended sheep on a remote mountain in County Antrim. His master, Milchu, was a high priest of Druidism, a Pagan sect that ruled religious influence over Ireland at the time. It might have been his Druid master who renamed him Patrick. 

During his six years of captivity, the young man became deeply devoted to Christianity through constant prayer. In a vision, he saw the children of pagan Ireland reaching out their hands to him. With this, he grew increasingly determined to free the Irish from Druidism. He managed to escape, boarded a ship bound for England, and spent 12 years in a monastery before travelling throughout Ireland building churches, baptizing converts and performing countless miracles along the way.

Often St. Patrick is credited with driving snakes out of Ireland, but there are no snakes in Ireland. Some scholars suggest that the term ‘snakes’ may be figurative and refer to the pagan religious beliefs and practices of Druidism rather than snakes.

The holiday on March 17 does not celebrate Patrick’s birthday; it commemorates his death in AD 461.

The original colour associated with St. Patrick is blue, and he often chose blue vestments to wear. Green was likely chosen at a later date, presumably because of the greenness of the Irish countryside.

While the shamrock is a popular Irish symbol, it is not the symbol of Ireland—the harp is the national symbol of Ireland. The shamrock was used by St. Patrick to illustrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity to the people of Ireland, and that’s why it is seen on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Aside from people wearing the colour green, drinking alcohol is most commonly associated with the holiday, but from 1903 to 1970, St. Paddy’s Day was a religious observance and all pubs were shut down for the day. The law was overturned in 1970 when it was was reclassified as a national holiday.

Foods commonly eaten in Ireland on St. Paddy’s Day are colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage), Irish stew made with lamb and root vegetables, and Irish Soda Bread.

For readers who would like to create something Irish from simple ingredients, the following recipe will yield a fresh-baked loaf in under an hour, from start to finish.

 

Irish Soda Bread

 

Ingredients

4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. (15 mL) granulated sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

2 cups buttermilk (500 mL) To make your own buttermilk, pour one tbsp. (15 ml) white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup, add enough milk or heavy cream to bring the liquid up to the one-cup line.  Let stand five minutes.  Stir. 

 

Preparation

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, baking soda and salt. Make a well in middle of the flour and add buttermilk all at once. Use your hands to mix buttermilk into flour to form soft dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Lightly knead the dough a few times to make a smooth ball.

Place loaf onto parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. With sharp knife, score a large 'X' on the top of the dough. Bake in the centre of a 425 F (220 C) oven for about 35 minutes. The loaf is done when browned and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve warmed with butter and honey. You can also slice freshly baked soda bread, toast it, and spread butter on top for a hearty, delicious snack. Other recommended toppings are egg, smoked salmon, cheese, clotted cream, and jam.

An Irish saying: Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don't want to press your luck.

Geographic location: Ireland, Britain, Scotland Wales County Antrim England Holy Trinity

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  • Celeste Delaney-Loughrey
    March 17, 2014 - 21:31

    Very informative and thanks for the recipe~

  • Celeste Delaney-Loughrey
    March 17, 2014 - 13:58

    Very informative and thanks for the recipe~