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March 2, 2004 > Festival O' The Emerald Isle

Festival O' The Emerald Isle

by Mekala Raman

"The top o' the mornin' to ya!" As the joyous day of March 17th draws near, people of all ages, nationalities and faiths search for a bit of green to wear and prepare to join the Irish to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Tall tales of grouchy Leprechauns scouring the Emerald Isle for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow mingle with Irish coffee, green beer and softer drinks for others, all with served with a bit of the green. The tales are entertaining, but most people are unaware of the true origins of Saint Patrick's Day.

Patricius Magonus Sucatus (Patrick) was not of Irish descent nor was he born or raised on Irish soil. According to legend, the sixteen-year-old Roman Catholic was of British origin, raised in Scotland and sold into slavery in Ireland. His religious beliefs sustained him and he was eventually able to escape the island, later becoming a priest. Years later, Patrick-by then a missionary-voluntarily traveled to Ireland to spread Christianity. He is said to have driven all snakes from Irish soil and illustrated the Trinity by utilizing the well-known shamrock; its three leaves represented the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Some claim he single-handedly converted all in Ireland to Christianity. Whatever the truth, St. Patrick is credited with establishing the Catholic Church throughout Ireland.

Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland is a religious event-comparable to Christmas celebrations. Irish citizens organize extravagant parades and convivial festivals, but they also attend mass and pray in memory of their beloved patron saint.

In the United States, people generally visualize Saint Patrick's Day as grand parades amid green-clad crowds, recognizing the Irish culture. Although Irish people were initially mistreated when they arrived in America after fleeing the potato famine that devastated their own country, they too became part of the great "melting pot" of America. Now, Saint Patrick's Day gives all of us - Irish and non-Irish alike - a chance to jump out of the "melting pot" for a day and pay tribute to the "Emerald Isle."

The Fremont Irish League is hosting a Saint Patrick's Day celebration in the Fukaya Room at the Fremont Main Library on March 13th from 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. The extravaganza will feature Irish step dancing, storytelling, singing, various arts and crafts, and leprechauns.

Timothy Reilly, cofounder of the Fremont Irish League, encourages all "to participate in sharing Irish music, step dancing, and soda bread. 'Cead Mile Fa'ilte' - a hundred thousand welcomes - to all who participate in Irish Cultural Day and "may the road rise up to meet you" on your travel to the library on March 13th."

This year, the league is hosting a "Soda Bread Tasting Contest" chaired by Mike Leahy, owner of Montessori School on Washington Boulevard in Fremont. Recipes for soda bread, a cake-like dessert often eaten with jam and tea, are often passed down from mother to daughter and vary from family to family. All contenders must submit three loaves of bread by 5:00 P.M. on March 10th to the Montessori School at 155 Washington Boulevard. On March 13th, people who attend the Irish Cultural Day will be allowed to taste all the entries and judge for the nominal fee of $1.

The Fremont Irish League hopes to hold an Irish Fair including a Saint Patrick's Day parade in the future. For more information about the League or about the program, please call 494-5792.

"Beannachtai La Fheile Padraifg"- Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

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