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Commemorating St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, this holiday has been celebrated since 461 A.D. to honor the Catholic bishop who converted the Irish to Christianity. A traditional icon, the shamrock, stems from the story of St. Patrick using the three-leafed shamrock in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit -- the Trinity -- could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated worldwide with pub crawls, parades and parties. It is an unpretentious, bawdy, luck-filled holiday free from the expectations of gift-giving or devout behavior.
In New York City, the annual St. Patrick's Dayarade is older the United States and has been led by the 1st Battalion of the 69th Infantry of the New York Army National Guard since 1851. Chicago also holds a large parade and dyes the Chicago River green for the holiday
Savannah, Georgia the mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist followed by a raucus parade of gaudily garbed green revelers has been a tradition for nearly two centuries.
Patrick was the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest, born about 390 in southwest Britain somewhere between the Severn and the Clyde rivers. Sometime early in the 5th century A.D. the future St. Patrick was kidnapped from his home on the west coast of England by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland at the age of 15 or 16.
It begins: "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity."
Until his captivity Patrick had, by his own account, cared nothing for God, but now he turned to God for help. After six years in captivity, he escaped or was freed and returned home to England by persuading some sailors to take him onto their ship. In a dream, he received his "call" to preach the Gospel and spent the next 15 years or so in a monastery preparing for missionary work.
Around 435, Patrick was commissioned to go to Ireland as a bishop and missionary. Patrick didn't bring Christianity to Ireland, but he was instrumental in bringing an organized church into existence on the island. He made his headquarters at Armagh in northern Irelan, where he built a school and had the protection of the local monarch. From this base he made extensive missionary journeys, with considerable success.
Shamrocks are traditionally associated with St. Patrick’s Day because Patrick used the three leaves of the plant to explain the Trinity: one leaf for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit.
The word shamrock comes from the Irish word "seamrog" meaning "little clover".
The white clover plant, trifolium repens, is generally considered to be synonymous with shamrocks. The four-leaf version of the white clover is commonly associated with luck or good fortune.
It has been estimated that there are some 10,000 regular three-leaf clovers for every lucky four-leaf clover.
According to legend, the leaves of a four-leaf clover represent Hope, Faith, Love and Luck.
Collect for Saint Patrick:
Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant
Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those
who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and
knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we
may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through
Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and
the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.
Irish folklore affirms the wee folk -- leprechauns -- who are fond of music (especially harps and fiddles), and love to dance the Irish jig. They enjoy a diet of raw mushrooms and shamrocks washed down with a splash of Irish whiskey. Leprechauns enjoy playing tricks on people, especially those who try to capture them in pursuit of the elusive pot of gold.
St. Patrick's Day Parade in Galway
Pipe bands, dance groups and performance artists come from all over the world to Galway each year to experience a parade that is widely regarded as one of the best in Ireland. Be Outgoing
The first St. Patrick's Day celebration in the Americas was held in Boston in 1737. The city stages one of largest St. Patrick's Day parades and has more Irish pubs than anywhere else in the United States. The three-hour parade that attracts more than half a million visitors steps off at 1 p.m. on March 17 beginning at the Broadway MBTA station in South Boston and ending in Andrew Square. Best places for viewing are along Broadway.
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