Many people celebrate St. Patrick's Day without knowing much about it. You need to know!
P O S T S C R I P T - By Chris Shantz
Ralph Wiggum had a leprechaun friend. It told him to burn things.
Saints have an interesting place in our society. Although there are plenty of saints, many of whom have their own days, some are more prominent than others.
St. Valentine has come to represent love, chocolate and tacky gifts. St. Nick is a comfortable and magical replacement for Jesus on Christmas. St. Patrick has come to be the saint of Irish imitation, good luck and drunken debauchery, which makes it no wonder why his day has become so popular with students.
Many people celebrate St. Patrick's Day without knowing much about it.
So before you go for beer and pancakes you should know the answers to the following questions: Who the hell was Saint Patrick anyway? Do the Irish drink green beer? And what's up with those crazy leprechauns?
Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was actually born in Wales in 385 AD. His given name was Maewyn, and until the age of 16, he was a hell-bound pagan.
However, at 16, crazy Irish pirates raided his village, captured him and sold him into slavery. As a slave, he herded sheep and possibly pigs, heard the voice of God, and became a Christian.
After six years, he escaped from slavery and ended up in a monastery where he studied for 12 years and changed his name to Patrick. While at the monastery, God called on him to convert pagans to Christianity.
St. Patrick travelled Ireland for 30 years. He established churches, schools and monasteries. He also converted many pagans, which upset the local Druid authorities who arrested him several times.
He died on March 17 in 461 AD. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.
According to legend, St. Patrick gave a sermon from a hilltop that drove all the snakes out of Ireland. According to scientists, there never were any snakes in Ireland and many people take the story as a metaphor for the conversion of pagans to Christianity.
The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737 and was first publicly celebrated in Boston. Since then it has spread across North America. It is even a statutory holiday in Newfoundland.
The celebration has also encountered criticism. In New York, one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades has faced protests in recent years from groups who are upset that gays and lesbians are not permitted to join the parade.
Although incredible popular, dyeing your Coors Light or Molson Canadian green for St. Patrick's Day is hardly an Irish tradition. One of the most popular and intimidating Irish brews is Guinness—a beer so black it won't succumb to green dye.
The head on a pint of Guinness is so thick that finer Irish pubs will carve a shamrock into it when they serve you.
Leprechauns are another part of Irish folklore that tend to pop up around St. Patrick's Day.
Leprechauns are nasty little elves for good reason—they guard a hidden pot of gold that humans always try to steal.
One legend tells of an Irishman who found a leprechaun and made him reveal that his gold was hidden under a tree. The man tied a red handkerchief around the tree to remember where the gold was and went home to get a shovel. When he had returned the leprechaun had tied red handkerchiefs around every tree in the forest.
The myth of leprechauns is so popular that it spawned the magically delicious cereal Lucky Charms in 1963. John Holahan, the president of General Mills, was inspired when he cut up orange marshmallows and sprinkled them over Cheerios.
The Leprechaun story has also inspired movies. The movie Leprechaun was released in 1993 and starred Jennifer Aniston of Friends. The movie was such a hit and so critically acclaimed that it spawned five sequels, including the classics Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun in Space.
Leprechaun 6 was released in 2003.
—With files from cnn.com and wilstar.com.
Chris Shantz edits Postscript. He also sees a leprechaun. It tells him that Lucky Charms are magically delicious.
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