Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Here's my list of things you might not know about the observance of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
1. Ireland's traditional color is blue, not green. Shocking, isn't it? Well, I suppose this is only true depending on how far you want to go back. There wasn’t an official color for the island when Patrick arrived, and if even if there had been, he wasn't Irish anyway. The images you see of St. Patrick wearing green are probably not correct. The color of a bishop was blue. (Are you surprised Patrick wasn’t Irish? He was a Roman Briton, likely born in Wales, England, or Scotland, according to who you want to believe.)
Here's one report about the Irish color blue. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1972553_1972551_1972489,00.html
2. The leprechaun has nothing to do with St. Patrick, and the one we're most familiar with has nothing to do with Ireland. Apparently it was Walt Disney who invented the happy-go-lucky leprechaun. The Irish version is a trickster, not one you would want to encounter, and...incidentally, he likely wore no green.
3. The Irish don't dye their beer green. Why mess with it? Besides, Guinness doesn't take the dye well. I’m told that you won’t find a green pint anywhere in Ireland on any day of the year. So if you want to be authentic, don’t do it. Of course, if you’re not a beer-drinker, as I am not, it’s not a problem. Go for some Irish stew or potato pancakes (called boxy) instead.
4. Parades aren't traditional in Ireland. Yes, Dublin, Ireland, has a fantastic St. Patrick's Day Parade, but the parades actually began in America. Irish soldiers in the British army held the first one (so it's said) in NYC in the 18th century. You can watch this year’s parade broadcast live from Dublin, Ireland. In past years I’ve watched it on RTE live (http://www.rte.ie/player/us/ ) It starts at noon Dublin time, so be sure to account for the time difference. It’s well worth taking the time. Each year there is a theme, and I’ve found past parades to be wonderfully creative. The 2017 theme is Ireland You Are.
5. The harp is the national symbol of Ireland. You will find it in many places, such as the Irish euro coin, and the Samuel Beckett Bridge across the River Liffey in Dublin, which is in the shape of a harp. I thought this bridge was interesting and unique when I saw it in person, but I did not know until recently that it is in the shape of a harp. If you look at photographs with the knowledge of what you are supposed to be looking for, you can tell. Brian Boru’s harp at Trinity College in Dublin is a national treasure and is the same type of harp the national symbol is based on. Boru is Ireland’s last high king (11th century), but in reality this was not his instrument. The harp displayed is from a later era, although it is one of the oldest Irish medieval harps in existence. Guinness adopted the harp on its logo in 1862.
6. Wearing a shamrock is a traditional way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Folks in Ireland started the tradition in the early 1700's. So, go for it! And no matter how you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I hope you are now a bit wiser about true Irish traditions.
Cindy Thomson’s love of Irish history inspires much of what she writes. She is the author of eight books, including Pages of Ireland, the sequel to Brigid of Ireland. She is also the author of the Ellis Island series, and co-author of Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story. She continues to write both fiction and non-fiction stories set in Ireland, writes regularly for genealogy magazines, and does research-for-hire, helping people uncover their Irish roots. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband Tom. Find her online at www.cindyswriting.com
Thanks for joining us today, Cindy!