Monday, March 15, 2021

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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Isn't it interesting that St. Patrick's Day tends to make everyone wish they were a little bit Irish, no matter how little Irish ancestry they actually have? I don't know of another celebration that's like it in that sense. Now for a lot of people, it's more of an excuse to have some fun and maybe drink some green beer than to give much thought to the saint, but his story is such a good one and shouldn't be forgotten.

Although he's the patron saint of Ireland, Patrick wasn't Irish at all. He was part of a Christian family in Roman Great Britain. Sometime during his teen years, he was captured by Irish marauders and enslaved in Ireland. He spent six years as a herder there, and grew in his faith. Eventually he escaped on a ship to Britain and went back to his family. After having a dream in which he heard the voices of Irishmen begging him to come and walk among them again, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained. He returned to Ireland in 433 and spent the next forty years preaching the gospel and establishing Christian churches in Ireland. During his later years his wrote the Confessio, an autobiography, and this is the source of much of what we know of his life. Saint Patrick, the bishop and apostle of Ireland, died on March 17, 461 at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland.

Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Junction City, Ohio) - stained glass, Saint Patrick - detail

Many of the well-known stories about Saint Patrick are a mix of legend and history. He used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and he confronted Irish kings and druids with a bold sincerity. A popular legend says that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, but that's probably not literal - the snakes represent paganism. In any case, Saint Patrick and his followers spread the Christian faith throughout Ireland and established the Christian church there. His example of love, commitment, and trust in God are worth remembering.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left . . .
~from "The Breastplate", attributed to Saint Patrick

The Irish have observed the date of Patrick's death as a religious feast day for centuries, with church services in the morning and feasting in the afternoon. St. Patrick's Day parades are popular around the world, but the first one was not in Ireland, but in New York City. Irish soldiers serving in the English military first marched there in 1762 and the parades became to be a show of unity for persecuted Irish-American immigrants. Beginning around 1995, the Irish government began to promote St. Patrick's Day because of the tourism interest it generated. In the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a public holiday. It's also a public holiday on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, which was settled by Irish refugees from Saint Kitts and Nevis. And in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. Patrick's Day is a designated Paid Holiday, observed on the Monday closest to March 17th. 

A Taste of Europe - St Patricks Day @

So whether you have Irish roots or not, you might want to celebrate Saint Patrick and Ireland this week, and your celebration might be serious or silly or some of each. You might serve a traditional Irish dish like corned beef and cabbage for dinner, or maybe enjoy Irish soda bread, boxty pancakes or kolcannon. When my kids were younger, I always bought a big box of Lucky Charms cereal for a St Patrick's Day breakfast treat! Clearly the silly side of the day!

Grant me a sense of humor, Lord,
the saving grace to see a joke,
To win some happiness from life,
And pass it on to other folks.
~Irish blessing

Barm Brack is an Irish loaf that is a favorite of mine. It's a slightly sweet loaf filled with raisins and currants, and it's often served toasted with butter, along with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The name may come from Irish words meaning "speckled loaf".  Many years ago, the loaf was associated with Irish Halloween celebrations. Small tokens such as a stick and a coin were baked into the loaf, and these had a meaning sort of like fortune-telling for the person who received that slice.

A Taste of Europe - St Patricks Day @
Barm Brack
1 cup cold tea (use leftover after brewing your hot cuppa!)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup citrus peel (or about 1/8 cup dried peel)
1/2 cup currants
1 cup sugar

1 egg
1/4 melted butter

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Put raisin, peel, currants and sugar in a large bowl and stir in the cold tea. Cover and let stand overnight.

In the morning, beat egg till frothy, then stir into the fruit mixture. Stir in melted butter.  Combine remaining dry ingredients and stir into fruit batter, just until blended. Spoon into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 350* for 60-70 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool completely. Serve sliced with butter.

Very good with coffee. Irish coffee if you prefer.

May joy and peace surround you,
Contentment latch your door
And happiness be with you now
And bless you evermore.
~Irish blessing

The Barm Brack recipe and other parts of this article are adapted from my original post: A Taste of Europe - St Patrick's DayMarch 17, 2015

 A Taste of Europe - St Patricks Day @

Find out more about St. Patrick at Catholic Online

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Lori - At Home: where life happens said...

The Lucky Charms made me smile! My girls would have loved having that!

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