St Patrick’s Day In Zurich

Nualan O’Brien is Irish and living and working in Zürich. She works for Sixtblog.ch We all know the festival, but do we know the man who gave his name to the date? And what did he do with the shamrock? St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. While he is called a Saint, he was never formerly canonised by the Catholic Church. He got sort of “voted” in as a Saint by the Irish through popular acclaim. As a result the 17th March is the unofficial global “Let’s celebrate Irishness” day- celebrated  all over the world from a week long festival in Dublin, Ireland, a dyed-green river in Chicago, USA and street parades in Sydney, Australia. While St. Patrick’s day is mostly associated with revelry:  Irish bars, drinking and dancing – the 17th of March or “St. Patrick’s day”  is a day which marks the death of a Scottish-born missionary called Patrick – who converted “pagan” Ireland to Catholicism. (And Ireland is still predominantly Roman Catholic to this day). While we all enjoy the festivities, our hard-working Irish missionary would no doubt not approve of the “Paddy’s day” rituals  which are mostly associated with this day. It is a

coldy ironic “back, back to the start” kind of Cheryl Cole pagan theme going on. St. Patrick the man and the shamrock (387 – 461 AD):  St. Patrick was born in Kilpatrick, Scotland, 387 AD.  At the age of 14, he was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd sheep. During this time, he developed a strong faith in God – even though Ireland was a so-called “land of pagans and tribes”. He escaped aged 20 after God appeared to him in a dream telling him to leave Ireland by the coast. Being the persuasive fellow, he talked his way onto a ship and some sailors took him to Britain. Another dream told him that the people of Ireland were calling out to him to return to make Ireland holy. He subsequently became a priest, and then a bishop. He returned to Ireland in 433 where he and his disciples succeeded in preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many to Catholicism (and surviving death attempts).  St. Patrick was a missionary in Ireland for 40 years, until he died on March 17, 461. And the shamrock?  While the four-leaved shamrock or “clover” is oftenassociated with the “luck of the Irish”, it was St. Patrick who used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the catholic concept of the “Holy Trinity”, namely the Catholic belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – all in the one entity.  Along with the harp, the shamrock is now considered the national emblem and is used in many logos including aerlingus (the national airline carrier) and the Irish Tourist office. Legend has it that St. Patrick also banished snakes from the island of Ireland. But with Ireland being the lovely, friendly- but rather rainy and not terribly reptile-friendly place – that is debatable. As a good theologian would tell you, snakes are a symbol for paganism. And as the Irish – a nation famous for writers, musicians and entertaining folk generally would be inclined to say, “and sure - why let the truth get in the way of a good story?” Things to do in Zurich this St. Patrick’s Day  Live Music in Paddy Reilly's  Talstrasse 82  http://www.paddys.ch/zuerich/index.php?section=home  Or Check out Zurich’s newest Irish bar  http://www.kennedys.ch/   Freischuetzgasse 14, 8004 Zurich , Switzerland  Other useful links.  The Irish Week long Festival  (www.stpatricksfestival.ie)


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