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Things Irish

Author Koren Stembridge
Air Date 3/17/2000

Things Irish Transcript

It started out as a reference question for eight-year-old Patrick, who is one of my favorite library patrons. He was working on his very first school research project–well he is, after all, in 3rd grade! Patrick’s question, to be precise, was “I need to know lots and lots of cool information about my holiday.”

“Your holiday?” I asked, slipping on my trusty librarian-sleuth hat. “Does it have a name?” Patrick rolls his eyes at me–he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

“My day!” He insists. “St. Patrick’s Day!” He gives me a leprechaun’s grin.

Now young Patrick is a techie, so off we went to find a computer with high speed Internet access, a big screen, and an extra tall child friendly chair. And here, with Patrick’s permission, is the “lots and lots of cool information” that we found.

We started with A Wee Bit O’Fun, and St. Patrick’s Day.Com–two great sites for background information about the life and traditions surrounding Ireland’s patron Saint. Here we found that St. Patrick was not actually born in Ireland, but in Scotland, sometime around 373 A.D. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. After six years in captivity, he escaped to France where he became a priest, and later a bishop.

Further perusal of these sites yielded the answers to a few of my young Pat’s specific questions. First, “why do we wear green on St. Paddy’s Day?”–and second, “what’s the deal with the shamrocks?”

The legend has it that St. Patrick, in a sermon about the Holy Trinity, was laughed at by the pagan king and his druids for worshiping a “god with three heads.” St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from the ground, and used its three leaf design to explain how three parts can join together to make a whole.

The wearing of green on St. Patrick’s Day stems from an old tradition of pinning a shamrock to your clothing on the saint’s feast day.

Next, Patrick and I paid a visit to the “Eyes on Ireland” photo gallery. Here we looked at gorgeous images of ruined castles, brooding seascapes, and the stairway to heaven–a stone stairway built over 1600 years ago by early Christian monks. We stopped at the Irish Folk Songs page to print out the lyrics to “Danny Boy” and I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover (Pat is sure he’ll get extra credit for the musical portion of his program). We looked at a site with traditional Irish blessings. And, as it was getting close to dinnertime, we checked out archives of Irish recipes.

By the time we were finished, Patrick had his presentation well in hand. The outline of his report is as follows:

Lights dim: The image of a ruined Irish castle is projected onto a screen. St. Patrick, played by young Patrick wearing a robe and a bishop’s hat, tells the story of his life, and the significance of the shamrock. Paper clovers and double-stick tape are distributed to the class. To the music of “Danny Boy,” Patrick strips off his robe to reveal his second costume, a leprechaun outfit, and begins dancing a jig. As the lights go on, Patrick explains that the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America was celebrated in Boston in 1737. “On St. Patrick’s Day, we’re all Irish!” he exclaims. As green apple juice and Irish soda bread is distributed to the class, the following blessing is offered to his classmates and his teacher:

“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow. And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.”

Amen to that, Patrick. Way to go. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.

Posted in Holidays