It is said that Patrick became Ireland’s patron saint by driving the snakes from the Emerald Isle (throwing down the witty challenge, “All snakes wishing to remain in Ireland, raise your right hand”). It’s a great story, but not literally true.
Since the Ice Age, the country most likely had no snakes; however, serpent symbols were prominent in the pagan rituals that dominated Ireland. Over the 3 decades that Patrick spread Christianity throughout the country, those ancient practices were “driven” away.
March 17th is believed to be the day St. Patrick died (in 460 A.D.) and is observed as a religious holiday throughout Ireland. Here in America, we mark it by adopting some of the symbols and practices of the Irish, hoping some of their “luck” will rub off on us.
* Finding a penny and picking it up
* Finding a four-leaf clover
* Sneezing 3 times before breakfast
* Spilling wine while proposing a toast
* Having a ladybug land on you
* Seeing a spider spinning in the morning
* Dropping a glove
* Picking up a pencil in the street
* An itch on the top of your head
Interestingly many people wonder what is the meaning of ‘Erin Go Bragh’. It is mostly translated to mean ‘”Ireland Forever’.
Origin: Speakers of the Irish language assume that the phrase is a corruption of the Irish Éire go Brách or Éireann go Brách. The term brách is equivalent to “eternity” or “end of time”, meaning the phrase may be translated literally as “Ireland until eternity” or “Ireland until the end (of time)”. The form Éireann go Bráth or Éire go Bráth is also used in Irish and means the same thing.
St. Patrick’s Day holds a special place in my heart. My Great Grandmother came to America from Ireland in the early 1900’s. I never did get a chance to meet her as she passed away a year before I was born.
Mary Mc Anteer was her name and she spoke Gaelic. My Grandmother ( Mary’s daughter ) told me great tales of the famine and eating potatoes and onion sandwiches for months when there was nothing else. How her mother and father struggled to make it to America and ended up raising 13 children here. I loved listening to those stories and always wanted more information. I heard she was one tough broad. I guess she had to be.
I vowed that if I ever went to Ellis Island, I would look for her name. When I finally did make it there, I was sadly unsuccessful in finding her paperwork. But, I was able to imagine what it must have been like by looking at all of those other transcripts, photos and items left behind so long ago.
I have often looked at Mary’s old photographs and can see the resemblance in my own Mother, sister and myself. I love that we are truly Irish but that she made the decision to leave that barren land to better her life and ours.
So, tomorrow I will raise a mug of coffee and Irish whiskey and make a toast to her, eat cabbage and corned beef and try to keep the memory alive. Erin Go Bragh!
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- www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day (sfgate.com)