St. Patrick's Day Legends Carry on but Its Traditions Can Vary between Ireland and Here

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael J. Murschel Daily Herald Correspondent

Shamrocks. Leprechauns. Green everywhere. It's hard to miss the coming of St. Patrick's Day.

Look around, and you will soon see that on St. Patrick's Day, almost everyone is Irish, either by birthright or association. Everything turns green: rivers, beer, clothing, accessories, tablecloths.

St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in 432. He died on this day in 461 or 465, and the legends and celebrations which have grown up around him are a constant witness to the power of religion.

You may recall being told that if you didn't wear green on St. Patrick's Day, the Wee Folk or leprechauns would pinch you.

That idea, according to Dubliner Traci Clarke, may be an American spin on things. "Green is the color of Ireland; it's known as the Emerald Isle."

Clarke, who with her husband, Shay, own Blarney at the Mall, offered some insight into the attraction the world seems to have for the Irish on this particular day. "I believe it's the Irish attitude of being fun-loving, caring and sincere," she said.

The Clarkes, originally from Dublin, Ireland, have been in the U.S. for 11 years. Their Blarney stores at Spring Hill Mall, Randhurst Shopping Center and Harlem-Irving Plaza, specialize in all things Irish.

"In Ireland St. Patrick's Day is a more religious holiday. People go to Mass. Usually, the traditional bars are closed, although some of the family-owned ones stay open," said Clarke.

"The day has become more commercial over here in the States," said Clarke. "Mind you, there's nothing wrong with that; it's the Irish-American way of showing their pride in their Irish heritage."

Yet, like so many holidays in this age, especially in the U.S., an ocean and centuries removed from the homeground of the patron saint of Ireland, it is easy to lose sight of the reasons behind the symbols of the day.

Ask almost anyone around here what images they relate with St. Patrick's Day, and they will probably list shamrocks, leprechauns, and maybe even St. Patrick himself. Ask them what these symbols mean, though, and you might quickly run the well of ideas dry.

Far from being the trappings of secular mythology, these symbols are firmly rooted in religion.

For instance, the shamrock and three-leaf clover and St. …