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Get Out The Green On March 17

According to the Christian legend, St. Patrick used this three-leaf clover to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity to his audience.

Shamrocks. Leprechauns. The colour green.

That’s all that came to mind when I flipped my calendar to the month of March and saw the words “St. Patrick’s Day” on March 17. As a junior high teacher, this holiday usually went uncelebrated other than the occasional student commenting, “You didn’t wear green today.” Much to my embarrassment, I usually forgot about the holiday. However, this year, I wanted to make it special for my own preschoolers but first I had to find out more about it.

If we lived in Ireland, we would remember Saint Patrick, the fifth-century missionary in Ireland. This holiday has been observed in Ireland for hundreds of years with singing, dancing and feasting on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. We do have bacon in our freezer and I have a fine recipe for cabbage borscht, so this will probably be our St. Patrick’s Day supper.

If we resided in the Chicago area, we would probably watch the celebration of turning the Chicago River an incredible shade of Irish green. This tradition began in 1962, when Chicago pollution-control workers used green dye to identify illegal sewage discharges into the river. They released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river to keep it green for a week in co-ordination with St. Patrick’s Day. This year, an orange dye will create an orange surface on the Chicago River, but after a few minutes the true Irish green will magically appear. We may not have the correct dye or make it to Chicago, but there is ample green Kool-Aid and green food colouring in my cupboards for a variety of crafts, beverages and green cake.

If we lived in Montreal, we would attend the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Canada which began in 1824. The holiday itself has been celebrated in Quebec as far back as 1759 by Irish soldiers after the British conquest of New France. In our own province, the Irish Association of Manitoba is planning its annual festival highlighting Irish music, dance, poetry and storytelling.

But in my home, I think we’ll follow the old tradition of “wearing of the green” or displaying the shamrock. According to the Christian legend, St. Patrick used this three-leaf clover to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity to his audience. The Celtic people also revered the shamrock as a sacred plant as it symbolized the rebirth of spring.

So in preparation, our greens are washed and ready. Our shamrocks are cut and will adorn the walls. And, hopefully, I’ll be forgiven by the Irish for the cabbage borscht.

Yes, we will all be sporting green on March 17.

– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba

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