The Irish culture strikes me as passionate and romantic. Cozy cottages, stone castles, mossy green woods and emerald fields. Rosy children – red hair! One trip to Ireland was all it took to steal my heart.
The Irish are pros at hospitality as illustrated by one of my favorite lines from “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” Disney’s vintage leprechaun movie (starring Sean O’Connery-sigh).
After Darby O’Gill captures the king of the leprechauns and tricks him by keeping him occupied with stories and woo-skey all night. The king asks “would you violate the sacred rites of hospitality?” For Darby that was a yes, but for the rest of Ireland hospitality is their hallmark.
But the Emerald Isle was not always charming and welcoming. Way back around 400 A.D., an English boy from a Christian family found this out the hard way.
Did you know that St. Patrick wasn’t Irish?
Patrick was born Maewyn Succat, around 385 A.D in Britain. His father belonged to a Roman family of high rank and was a government official in Gaul or Britain. His mother was a near relative of the patron of Gaul, St. Martin of Tours.
Maewyn grew up without faith even though his parents tried to teach him the gospel of Christ. When he was 16 years old, he was working on his family’s estate when he was kidnapped by fierce Irish pirates who took him to Ireland and sold him to a wealthy Druid. For six years as he labored as a slave, tending sheep and living outdoors, he learned the language and ways of the Celtic pagans. Living in lonely solitude, he began to pray and repent of his youthful follies and his faith in God and love for Him grew.
One night he had a dream in which he was told to fast and prepare to escape, a ship was waiting for him; he fled and secretly journeyed 200 miles to the coast. A runaway slave, he would have been killed if he was discovered. He said later that God directed his journey, showing him the way to go. When he arrived at the coast and prepared to board the ship, the captain refused to take him. He went a short distance away and prayed that the captain would change his mind. The sailors called after him, telling him to hurry back.
During the voyage, the ship wrecked and the crew and passengers were stranded in a deserted place. After four weeks, they were starving and began to be ill. The captain asked him why he did not pray to his God to help them. Maewyn asked the Lord for help; a herd of pigs appeared, providing the men with much-needed food. The captain kept Maewyn as a slave for several more years. One night he heard a voice that told him he would be free in two months, and he was. He now knew what he wanted to do with his life. He went to France to study Christianity at Tours, the monastery of his relative, St. Martin. He was ordained a bishop and given the Latin name “Patricus,” meaning “Noble” or “Father.” He finally arrived home and his family was overjoyed to see him, but Patrick had a strong prompting that he should travel to Ireland and teach the message of Christ to the pagan people there.
Returning to Ireland, he began to teach the people in their own tongue. As he served the people in meekness and love, they began to love him and listen to his message. He traveled among the pagans, converting the chieftains and tribes. He built churches and Christian schools. One story tells how he met the Druids as they gathered at Tara for a demonic conference one Easter. He withstood their magic and curses and held off an attack by the Arch-Druid leader who was killed. He taught the convened Druids twice. At first, the Irish chiefs resisted him and opposed his work, but because of his love for God and kindness toward all men and persistence, they began to believe in him and his faith. He served for more than 30 years in Ireland. Almost all the Druid chiefs and their followers became Christians.
When Patrick died on March 17th, in the fifth century, there was great mourning throughout the land. The Irish people made the day a commemoration of the great Christian missionary, Patrick. And even today, 15 centuries later, his life and work are celebrated throughout many nations around the world.
DID YOU KNOW?
That you can read St. Patrick’s own autobiography and testimony? “The Confessio of Saint Patrick” was written in Latin and later translated into English.
That St. Patrick’s color was blue?
That the authentic Irish meal for St. Patrick’s Day was boiled bacon and potatoes? Corned beef was a dish that Irish immigrants from the Potato Famine era in the 1840s started eating after they settled in New York. They were very poor and could only afford inexpensive cuts of beef. After saving money for several days they would, maybe once a week, purchase a piece of meat. Because there were no refrigerators yet, they learned to brine the beef in a salted liquid and spices to make it last for a few meals, which is where corned beef came from.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY IDEAS FOR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS
Before St. Patrick’s Day, talk to your family about service. Explain that St. Patrick used the symbol of the shamrock to teach about the Godhead. It also is said to represent faith, hope and charity – if there is a fourth leaf it represents luck. To honor the tradition, pass out paper shamrocks or stickers and invite your family to do secret acts of service for each other. When a kind deed is done, leave a shamrock to mark the spot. The recipient can write a brief description of the service. Place the shamrocks on the table for decorations for your holiday dinner.
Nothing brings the Emerald Isles feeling like Irish music. CDs can be purchased at music, party or craft stores, or checked out from the library or downloaded. Can you dance a jig?
MAGIC AT THE MOVIES
For Irish-style entertainment, these movies can’t be beat! Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People;” Sayle’s “The Secret of Roan Inish;” and “Riverdance.” Don’t forget the TV travel shows featuring tours of Ireland.
IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN
Tint everything green with food coloring: green milk, green eggs, cookies, even green bread for sandwiches. Yes, it’s gross, but the kids get a kick out of it! A not-so-bad treat… green sherbet in lemon-lime soda.
WEARIN’ O THE GREEN
Yes, St. Patrick’s color was blue, but today’s celebration calls for the green of Catholic Northern Ireland, or orange of Protestant Southern Ireland. Invite everyone to wear something green or orange to dinner. Decorate the house with pots of flowers, tied bunches of dried herbs, flowers or wheat with green ribbons to create a festive air.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
For a fun and enlightening time, read books with your children about leprechauns, St. Patrick and Ireland. Teaching them about other cultures helps them learn to appreciate and love people who are different from themselves.
Leave a plate of green treats on the doorstep of a neighbor or friend; with a note from an anonymous friendly leprechaun. Ding-dong-ditch if you are fast enough!
AN IRISH BLESSING FOR YOUR HOME
The story of St. Patrick underscores the importance of religious freedom and open discussion. In our current society, there is a political dogma being promoted that any religion that causes “hurt feelings” should be repressed or eliminated. We must stand up for our rights of free speech, freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness. Its interesting that the political “pagans” of our time feel they have the authority to dictate to Christians how we should live. We have been following the guidance of the 10 Commandments for centuries – if a person’s feelings are hurt because we promote a moral lifestyle and God-fearing society that follows His laws; that person is the one who needs reflection and introspection. Christians should be able to live and share their faith without reprisal; Jesus loves all of his children but He favors the righteous.
It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day at the McMurtry’s without our favorite glazed corned beef recipe with Dijon-butter cabbage. This year we will be copying our favorite brownie recipe from BYU.
GLAZED CORNED BEEF
This is so tasty, you may never go back to old-school corned beef. Preheat oven to 350. Place fat side up in a lined baking pan
1 corned beef brisket, rinsed (don’t use the spice packet)
Cover with foil, bake for 2 1/2 hours or until fork-tender. Drain, score with a knife, stud with
brush on glaze, return to oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes uncovered. Let cool for 15 minutes, slice across the grain
BROWN SUGAR MUSTARD GLAZE
1/2 C prepared mustard
1/2 C + 2 TBSP brown sugar
Cut in half, remove core and cut into 1/2″ slices
1 medium head of cabbage
Steam covered for 6 to 8 minutes until crisp-tender, drain, drizzle with Dijon butter and season
with sea salt and pepper.
1/2 C butter
2 1/2 TBSP Dijon mustard
And for dessert, Newell’s favorite brownies.
Here’s a super-easy centerpiece for St. Patrick’s Day using upcycled materials. This seriously cost me nothing to make – but then I have a garage full of craft stuff.
This country cottage is just the right size for a leprechaun to hide gold coins in (chocolate-covered from See’s candy). Make it with your family or crafting group for a fun project.
You will need:
a medium-size unfinished wooden birdhouse ($4.99 @ Michael’s craft store)
white gesso or acrylic or tempera paint
burnt umber acrylic paint
light green acrylic paint
large and small paintbrushes
a handful of large and small pebbles
dry green moss
A hot glue gun and glue sticks or thick craft glue
Shamrock or decoration if desired
- Whitewash the birdhouse with 3 – 4 coats of gesso or paint, allow to dry between each coat.
- Paint the door and base green and the eaves and doorknobs brown.
- Hot glue small pebbles around the door and larger ones around base of the house, filling in with the tiniest ones.
- Glue the twigs along the front and back of the roof edges and over the window. Glue moss to the roof and tops of the pebbles.
- Add an ornament if desired. Hide a few gold foil-covered coins inside the cottage.
Wherever you are in the world, remember St. Patrick on March 17th and celebrate his legacy. And if you get to the Blarney Castle remember to wear good climbing shoes – its a long way up narrow stone staircases to plant a kiss on the famous stone.
While you’re there enjoy a stroll around the grounds – beware of the POISON GARDEN! And admire the sweaters on the trees!
On March 17th everyone’s a little Irish, well almost everyone.
PS Here in the US we are under a sort of quarantine to keep a nasty little bug from spreading. Check out my Pinterest board for entertaining ideas! https://www.pinterest.com/pammcmurtry/st-patricks-day/
Those of us with kiddos might enjoy these ideas: