17 March 2015: OK - It's St. Patrick's Day and I would be remiss not to acknowledge it even though I have nary a drop of Irish blood in me veins! So we'll offer a few facts about the Emerald Isle that perhaps you might not have known.
First off, Let's talk a bit about St. Patrick's Day itself. The first parade was, you guessed it, in New York City. In 1762, Irish soldiers (conscripted into the British Army) marched through the city in a show of solidarity. The tradition continued in the United States, sponsored, of course, by the Irish immigrants and wannabe Irish. It was not until 1995 that Ireland began to promote the tradition on a world-wide basis in an effort to inspire tourism to the Emerald Isle. Now, of course, St. Patrick's Day is a tradition celebrated around the world - well, mostly. Perhaps not so much in the Middle East.
So, who was St. Patrick, anyway? As a young man, Patrick, born in England, was carried off to Ireland as a slave in 433 AD by Irish marauders. He was 16. He spent 6 years as a herder in Ireland and finally, guided by a dream, escaped back to England. Continually guided by dreams, he studied for the priesthood, was ordained and went back to Ireland. He spent 40 years there, converting thousands to Catholicism, living in poverty, and building churches.
He died in 461, on March 17th. (Of course, the calendar was different then and the date is likely inaccurate.) While the four leaf clover has kind of become a symbol of things Irish, Patrick used a three leaf clover to describe the Trinity to his followers.
The 17th been celebrated in Ireland as a quiet religious holiday, with church in the morning and food and drink in the afternoon. Leave it to the Americans to turn it into what it is today!
A bit now on Ireland's history: there have been, over the years, five countries that have attempted to conquer Ireland; none have succeeded!
Rome tried between 78 and 84 AD, fighting against "barbarians" but failed to bring them under the aegis of Rome!
Following the disastrous Spanish Armada in 1588, several dozen Spanish ships sought refuge on the coast of Ireland. Most were beaten to kindling on the rocks surrounding the coastline and those that escaped ashore were summarily rounded up and killed. End of story!
During the years of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, France (yes, France!) attempted to use Ireland as a base for capturing England. Obviously, no success there! And as recently as 1902, France toyed with and invasion of Eire while the British troops were all off fighting the Boers in Africa, and actually sent spies there to meet with rebel forces. But nothing came of it.
Of course, Germany tried both in 1914 and 1940. Obviously, nothing came of those ill-fated attempts either. And in connection with the 1940 plan, Churchill directed the English army to storm the Republic of Ireland with the intention of repelling a German invasion, should it materialize.
A final note on the influence of Ireland in America. Interestingly, the concept of hyphenated identity i.e. "something-American" came from the early Irish immigrants whose pride in their old country gave rise to calling themselves "Irish-Americans." Everybody else jumped on the band wagon a bit later.
So enjoy your green beer, "green eggs and ham" and for a day, be Irish! Until the next time,