Volume 91, Issue 88

Tuesday, March 17, 1998

magically delicious


Wetting your shamrock and other Irish traditions

By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Staff

Many people will take today to revel in St. Patrick's Day by wetting their shamrock with green beer although the North American celebration is far from the traditional Irish celebration.

St. Patrick was actually not Irish at all but a historical character who lived in the fifth century originally from either northern France or Wales, said expert of Irish culture and professor in the departments of medicine and biochemistry Peter Flanagan.

He was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave where he spent most of his time looking after sheep before escaping, only to later return as a priest sent by the Pope to christianize Ireland.

The shamrock, with three petals on one stem, was used by St. Patrick to symbolize the holy Trinity and is worn by the people of Ireland on St. Patrick's Day, Flanagan said, adding this is the most popular Irish sentiment to commemorate the day.

Until recently, the national holiday of St. Patrick's Day was a celebration of Christianity in Ireland and going to church was the major festival activity, said Western English professor Ninian Mellamphy.

Sometimes instead of a parade in Ireland, the people would hold a Feis, a festival of singing, step-dancing and oratory. "There is an emphasis on participation in the world of art," Mellamphy said.

Unlike the Irish, North Americans are much more involved in the day which involves parades, parties and drinking Guiness or green beer.

Mellamphy attributes this greater enjoyment of the day by Americans to the obstacles which were overcome by Irish immigrants who came to America to prosper.

Although all do not agree, this is the way to celebrate. "I think the whole business of green beer is a total aberration to Ireland and St. Patrick's Day," Flanagan said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998