St. Patrick's Day: Saints, Leprechauns, pots of gold, the Blarney stone and statistics


This year everyone started being Irish on Friday and it will last til the last hangover is conquered on Tuesday.

But what is St. Patrick's Day about anyway?

There are three ways to look at the celebration that occurs each March 17th: As a religious celebration, as a fairy tale or as an opportunity for amazing  statistics. 

St. Patrick
When looking at events in the fifth century, it is inevitable that there can be a muddling of facts. And so it is with St. Patrick. 

It you go with the most popular of religious versions, he was a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Born in Great Britain, he ended up in Ireland at the age of 16 as a slave. 

At the age of 22 he escaped and returned home and became a cleric, returning to Ireland. Though not much is known about his work, it is known that became a bishop and that he was known as the Patron Saint of Ireland by the seventh century.  March 17 celebrations both religiously and  not are in honor of the death of St. Patrick. 

Leprechauns are those we playful, whimsical characters in Irish folklore who are the size of child, mischievous and look like an old man dressed in green. 

They are said to be shoe makers who store their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

It is in the earliest reference to these wee ones that folklore of getting three wishes if you catch one is derived. As the Adventure of Fergus son of Leti tells it, the King of Ulster awakes from a nap on a beach and realizes that he has been dragged into the sea by three leprechauns. He captures them. But they grant him three wishes for their release. 

An inspiration for several writers, some poems about these money driven beings may be found here

The breaking of a myth
It has been believed by many that the Blarney stone came from England's Stonehenge. 

Geologists at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum analyzed an historic microscope slide of a slice of the Blarney stone. They determined, according to the Guardian, that it is "a limestone, made of the mineral calcite, and containing recrystallized and slightly deformed fragments of fossil brachiopod shells and bryozoans – all of which are unique to the region where it is based." 

Dr John Faithfull, curator at the Museum said: “This strongly supports views that the stone is made of local carboniferous limestone, about 330m years old, and indicates that it has nothing to do with the Stonehenge bluestones, or the sandstone of the current ‘Stone of Destiny’, now in Edinburgh Castle.” 

The National Retail Federation forecasted that St. Paddy spending in 2014 would, modestly, be $4.8 billion…a contemporary nod to the "Pot of Gold!" 

With all the wearin' of the green in the United States, how many claimed  Irish ancestry on the 2012 U.S. Census? It was more than 7 times Ireland's population! 

It was 4.6 million people. The average age of those counted was 39.2 and there was no indication whether or not they kissed the Blarney Stone. 

The celebration accounted for $21.5 million in wholesale florists' revenue in 2012. And that was for operations, with $100,000 sales or more, from potted chrysanthemums.


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