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13 March 2015

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick & The Luck of the Irish

This coming Tuesday is Saint Patrick’s Day, the day where everyone has an excuse to be Irish. Perhaps you have Irish roots or family yourself, as a sizable amount of people in the UK do, or maybe you’re just looking for an excuse to down some copious amounts of Guinness – either way, it’s the perfect time to let your hair down and enjoy the craic.

St. Patrick & The Luck of the Irish

The Surprising Fact About Saint Patrick

Academics are split as to where and when, exactly, Saint Patrick was born. One thing that can be said for certain is that he wasn’t actually born on the island. That’s the part that most people find the most surprising. Ireland’s patron saint wasn’t Irish by birth, he was, in fact, a True Brit – so there’s another reason for Britons to celebrate the day right there!

Some historians claim that Saint Patrick was English, others Scottish, while others still are convinced he was actually Welsh. Which begs the question who exactly would he be shouting for during the Six Nations?!

So, we don’t know exactly when he was born, or where, or, more importantly, what team he shouts for, but we do know the date of his death – March 17th – the day that’s celebrated throughout the world as Saint Patrick’s Day.

The Irish Saint

Saint Patrick is widely credited as being the man who brought Christianity to Ireland. Though a more accurate term might be spread, since there is strong evidence that Christianity already existed on the island, it simply wasn’t as widespread as the pre-existing pagan belief systems of the early Celts.

During this period Irish pirates frequently raided the British coast, capturing hostages. A teenage Patrick suffered the same fate and was sold into slavery in Ireland where he spent years working as a shepherd. During those dark days he turned to God and converted to Christianity.

Not long after his conversion his fortunes changed. He managed to escape and eventually made his way back to Britain, but soon thereafter he had a dream whereby the Irish people beseeched him to return - they needed his help. The dream gave Patrick a new purpose in life; he would return to Ireland to spread the faith throughout the entire island.

Drowning The Shamrock  

One symbol that Saint Patrick – and indeed Ireland as a whole – is famous for is that of the shamrock. Saint Patrick famously used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity – three separate parts (the leaves) joined as one single whole.

This symbol has also come to be seen as a lucky charm, in particular the four-leaf clover, which is quite rare.

Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland is commonly referred to as “Drowning the Shamrock”. Traditionally, since the day took place in the middle of lent, it was a welcome respite from the horrors of religiously mandated alcohol abstinence.

Since Saint Patrick was the man who brought Christianity, and with it lent, to Ireland, and since his symbol was the shamrock, the phrase “drowning the shamrock” meant having a drink to celebrate the Saint. Ok so a drink or two, or three, or maybe just one for the road and, ah what harm? Same again lads?.

The Luck Of The Irish

The phrase “The Luck Of The Irish” can be traced to the American west and the great gold rush. Irishmen, fleeing famine and travelling to America to seek their fortune, found themselves quite adept at mining gold. The phrase “luck of the Irish” wasn’t necessarily used in a positive sense, but rather one of bitter derision as many of their fellow miners grew jealous and resentful.

None the less the Irish miners persevered, braving the often-treacherous conditions and the wrath of fellow miners, claim jumpers and gunslingers. We often describe industries as being cut-throat, well this is one that literally was.

Gold, of course, has always been synonymous with Ireland. It’s what lured the Viking marauders in their longboats up the Shannon river to pillage and plunder. And then there’s the cheeky wee leprechauns – perhaps the most enduring creatures in Irish folklore – who would bury their pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Pots O' Gold

Now if you want to go chasing after rainbows well, fair play to yeh, as the fella says. If you’re looking for something a little more tangible, however, the Irish Lotto jackpot is worth £4.9 million. So why not bet on the Irish Lotto directly from the UK and give yourself the chance to bank the full jackpot! 

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