Truth from Blarney

Monday, March 10, 2014

Every March 17, individuals tap into their inner Irish and celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Myth and fact have melded over the years with respect to St. Patrick, and many people aren't quite sure what to believe about this beloved holiday.

Test your St. Patrick's Day knowledge with the quiz below.

1. St. Patrick was Irish.

Blarney: St. Patrick was born in what today would be called Britain. He was kidnapped by Irish brigands and brought to Ireland at age 16. He later escaped to Gaul (France) and returned to his homeland. Because no one in the 5th century was known as British, Patrick can be more accurately called a Celtic Briton, son of a low-level Roman official.

2.Patrick wasn't the first Christian missionary to visit Ireland.

Fact: There were other missionaries to visit the Emerald Isle, but none were as successful as Patrick.

3. St. Patrick drove snakes into the Irish Sea.

Blarney: Snakes have never been native to Ireland, and Patrick did not drive any off the land. This may have been a metaphor for druidic religions, which began to disappear as Christianity spread on the island.

4. The Christian concept of the Trinity being taught with a shamrock cannot be accurately credited to St. Patrick.

Fact: There is no mention of using a three-leaf shamrock to teach the concept of the trinity in Patrick's writings. Some have suggested the idea derives from an earlier Celtic tradition of using the shamrock as a metaphor representing a "trust in your soul," "belief in your heart" and "faith in your mind." Who Christianized the idea is not certain.

5. Green was always a lucky color with the Irish.

Blarney: Irish folklore states that green was the favorite color of the Good People (Irish fairies). The fairies would steal people, especially children, who wore too much green. Hence the color was long thought to be unlucky.

6. The annual St. Patrick's Day Parade is an Irish tradition.

Blarney: Actually, it's an American tradition. The Irish used to commemorate St. Patrick in a solemn religious remembrance. The original St. Patrick's Day Parade may be traced to a party in New York City, which Irishman John Marshall held at his home. Guests walked together to the house, thus forming an unofficial parade.

7. Drinking Guinness, the popular Irish stout, could be good for the heart.

Fact: According to research by the American Heart Association, Guinness may be as effective as daily aspirin in reducing the blood clots that cause heart attacks. The benefit comes from antioxidants, which the researchers say reduce cholesterol deposits on arterial walls. Therefore, raise a glass and say, "Slainte!"

8. Leprechauns are cute, mischievious elves in Irish folklore.

Blarney: Actually, they were disgruntled, nasty and brutish elves in the employ of Irish fairies as cobblers.

9. "Luck of the Irish" refers to the abundance of luck long enjoyed by the Irish.

Blarney: It refers to the luck many Irish descendants had during the gold and silver rush in America during the 19th century.

10. The "O" in many Irish surnames does not refer to a shortening of the word "of".

Fact: "O" is the Gaelic word for grandson. The British, who were colonizing Ireland, mistook it for a shortened form of "of" and added the apostrophe.

Now better informed, have a blessed St. Patrick's Day!