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Examiner
  • Lori Boyajian-O'Neill: The facts and myths of St. Patrick

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  • Go Green! St. Patrick's Day is next week. The color that has come to be associated with vitality, rebirth and renewal is ubiquitous on March 17, a prelude to the springtime ready to burst around us.
    When dietitians advise us to “eat our colors” I don't think they mean green beer or green corned beef and cabbage. Nonetheless, I will take that as a command and look forward to eating and drinking green on St. Patrick's Day.
    Much more than parades and shamrocks, St. Patrick and his Day, what do you know? T or F?
    1. St. Patrick was born and raised in Ireland. 2. St. Patrick's Day parades were started in Ireland. 3. St. Patrick was canonized by Pope John IV.
    Maewyn Succat, aka St. Patrick , was not Irish. He was born in Britain in the 5th century, which was then part of the Roman Empire. The patron saint of Ireland took the name Patrick after he became a priest.
    Maewyn was about age 16 when Irish raiders captured him from his home. He spent six years as an enslaved shepherd. The solitude afforded him time to reflect on life and his personal spiritual journey. Historians think young Maewyn was not particularly religious prior to his capture. He escaped and returned home where he converted to Christianity and became a missionary. Patrick then converted Ireland to Christianity.
    St. Patrick, the cultural and religious symbol of Ireland, was never canonized by a pope. After his death on March 17, in the late 5th century, the local church decided to celebrate him as a saint.
    There are many myths and legends associated with St. Patrick. The Patrick we celebrate did not lead snakes out of Ireland in symbolic reference to cleansing the country of pagans. There are no snakes in Ireland because it is surrounded by the cold Atlantic Ocean, deadly to snakes. Another myth was that Patrick taught using shamrocks to symbolize the Holy Trinity. In the 18th century as Patrick's status grew, the Irish began wearing shamrocks in his honor, which transitioned nicely to, “Oh, what the heck I'll just wear green from head to toe and I'll accessorize with a green beverage and top hat.”
    St. Patrick’s Day feasts and customs spread throughout Europe and to America. The first parade was not in Ireland but New York City in 1762. Some Irish soldiers walked, (paraded?) a few blocks to a tavern. The rest is parade history. If ever you wish to start your own parade, there is the template. When the potato famine struck in the 1840s tens of thousands immigrated to New York and Boston and the parades exploded in size. Independence's own Harry Truman was the first president to attend a St. Patrick's Day parade, which he did in New York in 1948. His appearance was important to Irish Americans who were beginning to understand and wield their political clout after decades of ridicule, discrimination and prejudice.
    Page 2 of 2 - When hundreds of thousands of us gather for our Kansas City St. Patrick's Day we are continuing a custom that started in 1873. We won't dwell on the myths and legend of Maewyn Succat. We are just appreciative that the life of St. Patrick continues to inspire celebration and good cheer. We're not going to let facts about snakes and shamrocks spoil a great story and a terrific excuse for a parade.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
    Answers: 1. F; 2. F; 3. F.
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.

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