British Billy celebrates St. Patrick's Day
By British Billy, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 11, 2011
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- It would seem to be a generally acknowledged fact that the fine folk of Ireland know how to have a good time. The gaiety of an Irish jig is enough to set even my paws a-tapping, and the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, provides anyone of Irish descent with an opportunity to celebrate their Emerald Isle and all its extensive history and culture. March 17, St. Patrick's Day, would seem to generously invite us all to be Irish for a day, should we so wish.
Attending school in Britain, children learn of the four patron saints of the British Isles: St. Andrew (Scotland), St. George (England), St. David (Wales) and, of course, St. Patrick (Ireland). However, what they do not learn is how the spirit of St. Patrick's Day has seized the hearts of many Americans so firmly that each year the Chicago River is dyed green and the city of New York plays host to the oldest and largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world.
In the United States, it seems to be customary to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. However, in Ireland the colour was long considered to be unlucky. Irish folklore holds that green is the favourite colour of the Good People (the proper name for faeries). They are likely to steal people, especially children, who wear too much of the colour. As far as I can tell, this doesn't seem to worry anyone very much these days. If it troubles you at all, just go easy on the green, to be on the safe side.
Interestingly enough, blue not green, is the colour originally associated with St. Patrick. "St Patrick's Blue" is used on Ireland's presidential standard or flag, while the Irish Guards sport a plume of St. Patrick's blue in their bearskins.
As far as can be determined, St. Patrick was born around 390 A.D. and was taken to Ireland as a slave by Irish marauders when he was just 16 years old. According to legend, he was kept in captivity in Ireland and was said to have seen visions in which he was urged to escape. After six years in captivity, he finally succeeded in escaping to the northern coast of Gaul (now France). While there, he was ordained as a priest and later returned to Ireland as a missionary, playing a major part in converting the Irish to Christianity.
The shamrock was originally chosen as the national emblem of Ireland because of the legend that St. Patrick used the plant to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. He plucked a shamrock from the ground and compared the three leaves on one stem to the nature of the Christian God. Shamrocks are considered good luck symbols by the Irish.
Another story associated with St. Patrick was his ability to rid Ireland of serpents. I am not too fond of snakes myself. Having come across the occasional adder* on my woodland jaunts, I find it best to give them a wide berth. I believe there are no moles in Ireland either, but that has nothing to do with St. Patrick, as far as I can determine.
A happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all. Time for me to patrol the garden in search of some shamrock. You know what they say about the luck of the Irish! I think some must have rubbed off on me, living the life of Riley as I do.
*More commonly known as a viper in the U.S., I believe.