My Daddy was Irish, and he always used this fact to tell a few Irish stories like the one about the last snake out of Ireland. Do you know that one? Oh, good. I’ll tell it to you.
St. Patrick had gotten rid of all the snakes. Except for one stubborn one. It just wouldn’t go. St. Patrick built him a beautiful box, but the snake said it was much too small. I’ll show you, he said, and slithered in. St. Patrick slammed the lid and threw the box in the ocean, and the last snake was gone.
Daddy told about the banshees, too. They were not beauties. They had one nostril, and one tooth that stuck way out. Their job was to wash the clothes of someone who was about to die. As they washed, they wailed. If it was someone important, a lot of banshees got together for the occasion. If you could catch one, they had to reveal the name of the condemned person, and grant three wishes. Three wishes always come in handy. Mine would have to do with rain, I can tell you.
Oh, and the wearing of the green. Again, a sign of the start of spring. Story is, the Irish gathered green leaves and boughs and burned them, and spread the ashes on their soil to make the crops grow better. Naturally, as they worked they’d stick a little sprig of green on their clothes, too.
And finally, why we wear the shamrock. In that same spring, when the boughs were burning, the farmer would take a burnt stick and bless each member of his family by sketching a cross on their arm. Later on it was natural to replace that with a shamrock. Probably more comfy, too. Of course, the better story is that St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity.
You know about the luck of the Irish. Every leprechaun supposedly had a treasure and if you held it by the toe, he had to reveal the whereabouts of his cache. Apparently leprechauns were all guys. This was a little tricky since the leprechaun could turn invisible at will. For a lunch box surprise treasure, tuck in a box of gold chocolate coins, or even a lottery ticket, to celebrate the luck of the Irish. If you’re planning a party, lottery tickets would make fun invitations or party favorites. (If a guest wins, he’ll surely split the money with you!)
For something fun, for St. Patrick’s Day, make an Irish Planter from a scooped out Irish potato. You can do a version of Mr. Potato Head with eyes and features and then plant grass, clover, or shamrock hair. Everyone will have fun watching it grow.
Joan C says
This has naught to do with St Patricks day lore but when I was a child the family would gather at my paternal Grandfathers apartment who was from County Cork, after the St Patricks Day parade in NYC. We’d have the ham and cabbage and potatoes for sure then sing Irish songs as we sat in a circle in the kitchen. Granddad playing his concertina or fiddle. Neighbors from the building would come in and the beer would flow.
He’d do a little jig if prompted.
One tale I remember because it was so ludicrous was, that when he was a boy and very sick, he was passed 3 times under the belly of a goat to make him well.
My maternal grandmother was the superstitious type and wouldn’t get up and leave a chair rocking for it was bad luck as well as throw salt over her shoulder for what reason I forget.
Dorothy Wilhelm says
I do love St. Patrick’s Day, even if it’s the anniversary of the good saint’s death, which seems downright unfriendly. Another St Pat’s Day myth we can dispense with right now – Herpetologists tell us that there never were any snakes in Ireland, so that St. Patrick would have had an easy time driving them out if they didn’t exist there at all. Never mind we all love him. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.