At the Monday noon luncheon meeting Rotarian Greg Hall, photo, entertained fellow Rotarians with some fun facts and myths associated with the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on March 17,  A.D. 461.  But did you know that he wasn't even Irish? He was born around A.D. 390 to a wealthy family in Roman England.  His birth name was Maewyn.  At the age of 16 he was kidnapped into slavery and brought to Ireland.  After 7 years of tending sheep, he escaped on a pirate ship to a monastery in Gaul (France) and converted to Christianity. 

In 432 he returned to Ireland as a missionary.  There he spent the rest of his life converting the Irish to Christianity.  Patrick became a bishop and after he had died he was named Ireland's patron saint.  In Ireland after his death, Patrick was largely forgotten.

Irish immigrants in the U.S. created the large celebrations that we know today.  Eighteenth century Irish soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War held the first St. Patrick's Day parade.  The celebrations became a way for the Irish to connect with their roots after they moved to America.  

Do you know what Trifolium dubium is?  That's the wild-growing three-leaf clover that some botanists consider is the official shamrock.  Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover (or shamrock ) to explain the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green started in 1962.  The parade organizer Steve Bailey, head of a plumber's union, thought it would be a good idea to use a green dye used to trace possible sources of river pollution to turn the entire river green on St. Patrick's Day. They tried it, and people like it, and so began the tradition.

There is the myth that St. Patrick banished snakes from Ireland. Although there are no snakes on the island today, there probably never were any.  The icy ocean waters surrounding Ireland are much too cold to allow snakes to migrate from England or anywhere else.  Since snakes often represent evil in literature, when it is said that Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland, it is symbolically saying he drove the evil, pagan ways out of Ireland. 

In the mid-1990s the government of the Republic of Ireland began a campaign to use Saint Patrick's day to showcase Ireland and its culture. On March 17, 1996 the first St. Patrick's Festival was held in Ireland. Its intent was to attract tourists to the Emerald Isle.  Since the inaugural event, it has been quite popular and has continued to grow attracting tourists from all around the world.  This year's St. Patrick's Day celebration in Dublin included Purdue University's 331 member strong "All American" Marching Band.  Check them out on Youtube!

Today, the tradition  of St. Patrick's Day parades, packed pubs, and green silliness has invaded Ireland with full force. The Irish figured out that the popularity of St. Patrick's Day is a good way to boost spring tourism.  

Brandt Stum 

Kentland Rotary Club