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Luck O'the Irish
Every year on March 17, the Irish and the Irish-at-heart across the globe observe St. Patrick’s Day. What began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has become an international festival celebrating Irish culture. No matter if you're Irish or not, Saint Patrick's Day, or Saint Paddy's Day, can be a fun time for the "wearing o' the green," watching a parade, and/or getting together with friends for a pint. For most Irish-Americans, this holiday is both religious and festive. It is one of the leading days for consumption of alcohol in the United States, as individuals are allowed to break their Lenten sacrifices for the day in order to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. The consumption of green colored beer is a common beverage of choice. Many people wear green and traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched "affectionately" of course.
When Saint Patrick was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain, and was taken as a slave to Ireland. He lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. Later on, he served as an ordained bishop. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
Saint Patrick's Day is observed on 17 March, the date of his death. It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself.
The shamrock was chosen Ireland's national emblem because of the legend that St. Patrick had used it to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is the idea that God is really three-in-one: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Patrick demonstrated the meaning of the Three-in-One by picking a shamrock from the grass growing at his feet and showing it to his listeners. He told them that just as the shamrock is one leaf with three parts, God is one entity with three Persons.
The Irish have considered shamrocks as good-luck symbols since earliest times, and today people of many other nationalities also believe they bring good luck.
A leprechaun is an Irish fairy who looks like a small, old man about 2 feet tall. He is often dressed like a shoemaker, with a crooked hat and a leather apron. According to legend, leprechauns are aloof and unfriendly. They live alone, and pass the time making shoes. They also have a hidden pot of gold!
Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer. If the leprechaun is caught, he can be threatened with bodily violence to tell where his treasure is, but the leprechaun's captors must keep their eyes on him every second. If the captor's eyes leave the leprechaun - he's known to trick them into looking away - he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.
While many Catholics still quietly celebrate this day of religious observance by going to mass, St. Patrick's Day slowly evolved to become a celebration of Irish heritage. Through the years, along with legendary shamrocks, many symbols were included in festivities that are reflective of Ireland's folklore, culture, and national identity (think leprechauns, ethnic cuisine, and wearing green). Other places that join in on this celebration include Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada, along with many cities across the United States.
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