Father McGee walked into the church and spotted a man sitting cross-legged on the altar.
‘My son,’ said the holy man, ‘what are you doing? Who are you?’
‘I’m God,’ said the stranger.
‘I’m God,’ he repeated. ‘This is my house!’
Father McGee ran into the presbytery and, in total panic, rang the archbishop.
‘Your reverence,’ said he, ‘I hate to trouble you, but there’s a man sat on me altar who claims he’s God. What’ll he do?’
Take no chances,’ said the archbishop. ‘Get back in the church and look busy!’
Well, today is a little light on celebrations – so you’ll have less to read, and more time to celebrate! Can’t beat that, right?
St. Patricks Day –
Saint Patrick, the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, lived during the 4th century. He was born Britain, kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was 16. He escaped six years later and fled back to his family. He later became a bishop of his church and returned to Ireland as a missionary. He was given the credit for bringing Christianity to the Irish people. In the centuries after Patrick’s death (which is believed to be on March 17, 461), the mythology surrounding his life became ingrained in the Irish culture. The most well known legend is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of the native Irish clover – or the shamrock. Now, this isn’t to be confused with the four-leaf clover – which is also widely recognized as part of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations – the 4 leave clover represents good luck. Another legend is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, but when you’re a patron saint I guess the wild and incredible stories will flourish.
From the time of the 9th or 10th centuries, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of Saint Patrick on March 17th. What is interesting though, is that the first parade held on Saint Patrick’s Day didn’t take place in Ireland, but in the United States! Irish soldiers, serving in the English military, marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. The parade, and the Irish music, helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, and with their fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the 35 years following that first parade Irish patriotism amongst the American immigrants grew and flourished, which prompted the rise of what was called the “Irish Aid” societies such as the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each of these groups would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums, which had actually become popular in the Scottish and British armies.
In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to combine their parades to form one official New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. That parade is now the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States! Each year nearly 3 million people stand along the 1.5 mile parade route to watch the parade, which takes more than 5 hours. What amazes me about this, is that we see the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year but I can’t honestly say I’ve ever heard of this parade, the largest and oldest in our country, to be televised! And it should be! If anyone has ever actually see this on TV and I’ve just missed out, could you let me know?
Until about the mid-19th century, most Irish Immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, nearly 1 million Irish Catholics began coming to America to escape starvation. They were despised for their alien religious beliefs and the accents that were unfamiliar to the American Protestant majority. Because of this, and other factors such as education, they had trouble finding even the most menial of jobs. When the Irish Americans in the cities took to the streets to celebrate their heritage on Saint Patrick’s Day, they were portrayed in the newspapers in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys. Sounds to me like people haven’t progressed as much as they’d like to think.
The American Irish began to realize that their large and growing population gave them a political power that they hadn’t exploited. They began to organize, and their voting block, known as the “green machine”, became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. The annual Saint Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for the Irish Americans, and a must-attend event for all sorts of political candidates. President Harry S. Truman attended the 1948 New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish Americans whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in the New World.
There are some interesting traditions that have developed throughout different cities to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. One of them is the annual dyeing the Chicago River green. This started in 1962 when the city pollution control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye would be a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That first year they released 100 lbs of green vegetable dye into the river – enough to keep it green for a whole week! Today, so they can minimize environmental damage, only 40 lbs of dye are used, and the river is green for only a few hours. It’s funny though, the Chicago historians claim that their city’s idea for dyeing the river green was original, there are some natives of Savannah, GA – whose St Patrick’s day parade is the oldest in the nation and dates back to 1813 – believe that they actually originated the idea. They pointed out that in 1961 a hotel restaurant manager by the name of Tom Woolley convinced the city officials to dye Savannah’s river green. The experiment didn’t work as they planned though, and the water only took on a slightly greenish hue. They never tried to dye the river again, but Woolley never wavered that he personally suggested the idea to Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley. Others refute that claim, and truly, how will they ever really know?
Up until the 1970’s, Saint Patrick’s Day was traditionally a religious occasion and the pubs were all closed on March 17th. However, beginning in 1995 the Irish government started a national campaign to use the interest in St Patrick’s Day to bring in tourists and to showcase Ireland and Irish culture to the rest of the world. Today about 1 million people take part annually in Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin, which is a multi-day celebration with parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions and fireworks shows.