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March 14, 2006 > St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day

by Arathi Satish

We all know that as spring approaches, so does St. Patrick's Day. Although this is an Irish holiday, Americans have joined in the celebration. Whether Irish or not, they wear green, march in parades and dance. It is interesting to note that of the 42 American presidents, 21 have been of Irish descent!

This Irish holiday is always celebrated on March 17, the day Saint Patrick died. It was set aside as a day to mourn; mourning turned to commemorating and celebrating his life. Many fascinating stories, some true and some not, are associated with St. Patrick. Irish people give this saint credit for driving snakes out of Ireland, but the truth is that snakes are not indigenous to Ireland. St. Patrick's Day is also associated with the color green. People wear green in memory of Ireland, the Emerald Isle and wear shamrocks, or three leafed clovers. Green is also the color of spring. Leprechauns are supposed to be mean little elves, and are also associated with St. Patrick's Day, although the only reason for this is that they are Irish.

St. Patrick was born around 385 AD in Britain to wealthy parents; his real name was Maewyn Succat. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and taken a prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family estate. He was sold into slavery in Ireland and remained a captive for six years. During that time, he worked as a shepherd, away from people. Loneliness and fear made him turn to religion, and he became a devout Christian. He started having religious visions and heard a voice, which he believed to be God's telling him to leave Ireland.

After escaping to Britain, he experienced a second revelation, this time to return to Ireland as a missionary. St. Patrick studied religion for more than 15 years and became a priest and later a bishop. He was sent to Ireland to spread Christianity. Using the shamrock, which resembled a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the Christian concept of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he also used bonfires while celebrating Easter as the Irish used to honor their gods with fire. The Celtic cross was created by St. Patrick and he designed it by superimposing the sun onto Christian cross so worship of the symbol would be more natural to the Irish people.

As St. Patrick's Day falls during the season of Lent, people would normally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Prohibitions of the season were waived and people had a traditional meal of bacon and cabbage. The first parade honoring St. Patrick's Day took place in New York on March 17, 1762 which helped soldiers to reconnect with their ancestry. This led to the rise of Irish societies and additional parades.

St. Patrick's Day is now celebrated all over the United States. Fremont Irish League started their celebrations a week earlier by holding "Irish Cultural Day" at the Fremont Main Library on Saturday, March 11.

The upcoming celebrations include:

Friday, March 17
St. Patrick's Day
7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Champagne, live Irish music
Elliston Vineyards
463 Kilkare Rd., Sunol
(925) 862-2377

Friday, March 17
St. Patrick's Day Lunch
11:45 a.m.
Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage lunch with ice cream. Call at least 24 hours in advance to make your $3.25 lunch reservations.
Newark Senior Center
7410 Enterprise Dr., Newark
(510) 742-4840

Friday, March 17
St. Patrick's Day Celebration
3:30 p.m.
Entertainment, treats, and fun.
Carlton Plaza of Fremont
3800 Walnut Ave., Fremont
(510) 505-0555

Saturday, March 18
St. Patrick's Day Tea
1 p.m.
Tea sandwiches, fruit, sweets, Irish breakfast tea, and Irish music.
Olive Hyde Art Center
123Washington Blvd., Fremont
(510) 494-4228

Saturday, March18
St. Patrick's Day Parade
More than 60 floats will travel the route led by the Grand Marshals from Bray, Ireland.
9:30 a.m.
Starts at Amador Plaza Road, Dublin
(925) 833-6629

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