Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

"There are two kinds of people in the world," the saying goes.  “The Irish and those who wish they were."  On Tuesday, March 17, 2015 this bit o’ blarney wouldn't apply, of course, since everyone's Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the spirit of shamrocks, bagpipes and a whole lotta green, a quick search using 
TWUniversal--the one-stop search engine provided by the TWU Libraries for the discovery and delivery of local and remote resources--yielded the following pot o' St. Patrick's Day trivia.


Is the shamrock unique to Ireland, as the myth suggests?  No.  In truth you can find it anywhere from Tasmania to North America to the mountains of South Africa (Europe Intelligence Wire, March 17, 2006).

Why is St. Patrick's Day associated with the color green?  According to some accounts blue was actually the first color 
associated with the holiday, but that started to change in the 17th century.  Green is one of the colors in Ireland’s tri-color flag, and it has been used in the flags of several Irish revolutionary groups throughout history.  Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, so named for its lush green landscape.  Green is also the color of spring and the shamrock (csmonitor.com).

Why is the Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day--and is the dye really green?  It's an annual ritual that dates back over 50 years, and no.  The tradition's origins are of some dispute--depending on the source, either former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, local plumbers (history.com) or leprechauns deserve the credit--but one thing is certain:  it is a revered part of the city's annual St. Patrick's Day festivities enjoyed by thousands.  Surprisingly, the dye itself is orange; combined with water it turns yellow, then a bright emerald color. "This spectacular transformation," notes the committee responsible, "ranks right up there with the parting of the sea by Moses and the Pyramids of Egypt" (greenchicagoriver.com). Side note:  This bit of hyperbole is a fine example of the Irish mode of speaking known as "blarney."



Bacon and Cabbage  This St. Patrick’s Day, millions of people will sit down to an authentic Irish meal (or so they think) of corned beef and cabbage.  In fact, only half this meal is Irish.  Cabbage has historically been a staple of the Irish diet--but it was traditionally eaten with Irish bacon, not corned beef.  Irish immigrants in America couldn't afford the bacon, so they substituted corned beef--a cheaper alternative they learned about from immigrants of other national origin (csmonitor.com).

Pinch By Pinch  If you forget to wear green on St. Paddy’s Day, don’t be surprised if you get pinched.  This is an entirely American tradition that probably started in the early 1700s.  St. Patrick’s Day revelers thought wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns (fairy creatures who would pinch anyone they could see--that is, anyone not wearing green).  People began pinching those who didn’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns would likely sneak up and pinch them (csmonitor.com).


The First O' Many  New York City hosted the first St. Patrick's Day parade, which featured Irish soldiers in the English military, on March 17, 1762 (PR Newswire, March 6, 2007).

That's A Wee Bit Ironic  Green is often considered unlucky in Ireland (Knight Ridder/Tribune, March 11, 2008).


We're Gonna Need More Green Beer  In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 34.5 million Americans claim Irish ancestry--a number almost nine times the population (at 4.1 million) of Ireland itself (The Wischlist Blog, March 13, 2010).

From the TWU Libraries, a safe and happy St. Patrick's Day to all--and that's no blarney.

~Sandy O'Cochran

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