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Vol.7, No 91, March 16, 2000
[news]  

Holiday has history

By Jill Newell
Daily Forty-Niner

St. Patrick was a real man whose religious establishment has become one of the most popular Irish legends.

During the Middle Ages, Ireland was known as the ultima thule; the farthest place imaginable, the edge of the known world. This is how Ireland became associated with magic, said Cal State Long Beach professor of medieval history Lezlie Knox.

St. Patrick, or Patricius in Latin, was born around 350 A.D., and probably lived in Wales, said Brad Hawkins, professor of religious studies.

He was kidnapped, brought to Ireland and sold into slavery, where he was a slave for about a decade, Hawkins said.

He escaped to England and studied in a monastery in Gaul for 12 years where he became a priest. St. Patrick helped to bring Christianity to Ireland, which was predominately Pagan at the time. He converted thousands of people.

"He established the religious system of Rome and originated the Christian Church in Ireland," Hawkins said. "He was probably quite a forceful speaker."
The color originally associated with St. Patrick was dark blue, or St. Patrick's blue. The change to green came from Patrick's association with shamrocks, and was probably made around the 1750's, Hawkins said.

"He illustrated the nature of the trinity with the shamrock," Hawkins said. "He used that in his teaching."

Patrick angered the Celtic Druids with his converting, and as a result, he was repeatedly arrested. He died March 17, 461 A.D. after 30 years of missionary work.

One of Patrick's legendary tales is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland while giving a sermon on a hilltop. He cursed them, sending them into the sea.

Snakes are not found in Ireland, Hawkins said, but because of the country's geographical position. Another version of the story says that driving the snakes out of the country is symbolic for the end of the Pagan practice in Ireland.

Another legend says that St. Patrick found the entrance into the underworld, or croghpatrick, and preached to the souls in hell, Hawkins said. To this day, there is a pilgrimage to this mountain in the western part of Ireland, Hawkins said. Some people climb the hills on their knees as an act of penance.

Ireland has observed St. Patrick's Day as a church festival for several centuries, however the celebration of the secular festival probably became popular in the 1700's, Hawkins said.

America started celebrating St. Patrick's Day in the 1850's, probably as a result of Irish pride. Signs with No Irishman allowed, or No Dogs or Irishman were prevalent in the time, Hawkins said.

Ireland does not celebrate St. Patrick's Day as wildly as America, Hawkins said.

"There is no green beer, and no green bagels," Hawkins said. "They go to church, maybe a low-key party or a dance."
Senior health science major, Jim Neri, agreed that Americans do celebrate the day more than their Irish counterparts although he won't be out partying.

"It's just to drink and get drunk," Neri said. "It's not a holiday with traditional aspects."

The reason being, "I don't care too much for it," Neri said. "It's not like Christmas -- or Halloween even."

 
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