Turn green - for St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patricks Day Burren Smokehouse Did you know that the month of March has been declared the "Irish American Heritage Month" since 1991? Equally important, it is also the month in which the whole world seems to be celebrating St. Patrick's Day: numerous buildings and landmarks like the London Eye, the Table Mountain in Cape Town, the Empire State Building in New York and the TV Tower at Berlin's Alexanderplatz will turn green on the 17 March.

In Chicago, even the rivers and canals are taking on a bright green colour for about five hours. The tradition of dyeing the river green came about by accident when plumbers used toxic fluorescein dye to trace sources of illegal pollution discharges. The dyeing of the river is still sponsored by the local plumbers union, but thankfully, the environmentally friendly vegetable dye is being used these days.

In Ireland, there will be parades taking place in every city, town and village. The Irish are very good at making fun of local and political events and turning them into enjoyable entertainment during those parades. Then, the celebrations will be shifting to the pubs where music and merriment will be going on for a good while longer.

Clover Burren SmokehouseAs to the most famous of all Irish Saints, and there are a few, quite a lot is known about St. Patrick and his life (ca. 387 - 17 March 461 AD) due to the fact that he wrote two books. They amazingly survived the last 1550 or so years. The dates of his birth and death are approximate as nobody can pinpoint them exactly, but they'll give us a timeframe.

Patrick - or Maewyn Succat as he would have been known as to his parents - grew up as the son of a preacher in Romain Britain. At the age of 14 or 16, he was kidnapped by one of the many Irish raiding parties and sold as a slave to a farmer in Antrim. For the next 6 years, he spent his time shepherding until he heard a voice telling him to go home. He escaped and back in Britain, began a time of intense religious studying.

Finally, he had a vision to go back to the place of his suffering and bring Christian faith to the people of Eire. He walked the island for 40 years, and converted people of all walks of life, from the poor to the princes. St. Patrick is credited with 100,000 baptisms, 300 church buildings and an endless number of priests, monks and nuns. He refused money and lived in poverty until he died at Saul, where he had built the first Irish church. He is believed to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.

Ireland's Patron Saint often used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity, and entire kingdoms were eventually converted to Christianity after hearing Patrick's message. That is why we are still today pinning bunches of shamrock to our lapels.