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St. Patrick's Day Facts Diane J DJ Lost In light of the upcoming holiday, here are some facts on St. Patrick's day.

It is possibly the only national holiday that is given recognition outside it's native land.

In the United States, though not a national holiday, March 17th is recognized in many communities and cities. Everything from parades, to the 'wearing of the green' , to serving green beer (they really add green colouring to it!) to some places going as far as dying rivers green, mark the holiday of Ireland's patron saint.

The biggest observance of all is, of course, in Ireland. Almost all businesses, with the exception of restaurants and pubs, close on the 17th of March. Being a religious holiday as well, many attend mass, where it is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries throughout the world, before the serious celebrating begins.

Patrick is most known the world over for having driven the snakes from Ireland. Different tales tell of his standing upon a hill, using a wooden staff to drive the serpents into the sea, banishing them forever from the shores of Ireland.

One legend says that one old serpent resisted, but the saint overcame it by cunning. He is said to have made a box and invited the reptile to enter. The snake insisted the box was too small and the discussion became very heated. Finally the snake entered the box to prove he was right, whereupon St Patrick slammed the lid and cast the box into the sea.

While it is true there are no snakes in Ireland, chances are that there never have been since the time the island was seperated from the rest of the continent at the end of the ice age.

As in many old pagan religions serpent symbols were common, and possibly even worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of putting an end to that pagan practice. While not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, it was Patrick who encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rights. He converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the Holy Wells which still bear that name.

According to tradition St. Patrick died in A.D. 493 and was buried in the same grave as St. Bridget and St. Columba, at Downpatrick, County Down. The jawbone of St. Patrick was preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth, epileptic fits and as a preservative against the evil eye. Another legend says St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury and was buried there.

The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Galstonbury Abbey. There is evidence of an Irish pilgrimage to his tomb during the reign of the Saxon King Ine in A.D. 688, when a group of pilgrims headed by St. Indractus were murdered.

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