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by Abigail Van Buren

St. Patrick's Legend May Contain a Bit of Blarney

DEAR READERS: A Happy St. Patrick's Day to all you proud Irishmen and Irish women -- and Irish children, too.

I confess I didn't know very much about Saint Patrick, after whom this special day is named, so I did a little research and came up with some interesting and rather astonishing facts.

St. Patrick was not Irish -- he was a Roman, and his name was Patricious Magonus. (His father was Calpurnius, a tax collector, and his mother was English.) The family lived in Britain in the fifth century.

Their district was raided by pirates when Patricious was 16, and he was part of a group taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. He spent the next six years working as a swineherd, praying for freedom, and finally escaped.

During his captivity, he had developed a love of Ireland and its people. He went on to become a priest, then a bishop, and returned to do missionary work there. He is credited with converting the Irish from paganism to Christianity. According to legend, Patrick drove the snakes of Ireland into the sea, and used a green shamrock to explain the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) to the Irish.

Centuries later, the first St. Patrick's Day celebration in the United States was held in 1737 in Boston, which had the largest Irish population in the United States.

Today, more than 100 cities across the nation celebrate St. Patrick's Day with parades, songfests, food and drink. The Chicago River in Chicago is dyed green by Midwestern leprechauns.

Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day by wearing shamrocks, or something else green. I have a large green shamrock-shaped pin on which is printed "KISS ME -- I'M IRISH," because, as the saying goes, "On St. Patrick's Day, EVERYONE is a little bit Irish."

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about the lady who's on AFDC, who has noticed that "many jobs require people to speak Spanish," and who cannot find a job.

My question is: What is she doing with her 40 hours a week now, to make her more employable in the workplace tomorrow? Is she learning Spanish? Is she honing her grammar-spelling-typing-math skills? While she's playing bingo, is she getting to know people there who might have children in business who are currently hiring? Is she revisiting the places where she applied for work so they can get to know her and know that she's still available? Or, in between job interviews, is she sitting around watching TV?

Fresno has a wonderful library system where, for free, she can check out books and tapes on just about every subject. I've seen language tapes in thrift stores for 50 cents and textbooks for a quarter. California has an excellent community college system, with special programs for poverty-level people.

My question for any welfare recipient is, "What steps are you taking to get off welfare?" -- ONE WHO LEARNED TO BE A GO-GETTER, SUSANVILLE, CALIF.

DEAR GO-GETTER: A good question. Thank you for a letter that could be a lifeline to those struggling to get out of the unemployment pool.

I have been informed that most community colleges have programs similar to those in California.

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