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."