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Front Page » March 6, 2003 » Opinion » Honor heritage with ethnic holidays
Published 4,246 days ago

Honor heritage with ethnic holidays


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

The calendar flipped to March Saturday and we all know shamrocks will soon fill store windows, leprechauns will dance their way through television ads and the Irish will be tinting their beer green.

When it comes to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I was reminded of my younger days in Montana where the place to celebrate this holiday was Butte, Mont. Folks in this south-central Montana city remind me a lot of many people here in Carbon county, in the fact that their ancestors had come from Ireland to work in the mines. Every year Butte organizes a full week's worth of activities planned to celebrate the towns Irish heritage.

For those that are not into this holiday, a little information on why the celebration takes place is always helpful. Saint Patrick was born in 387 A. D. in Britain as Maewyn Succat. His father Calphurnius was a Roman official. Saint Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland, according to his autobiography.

He escaped by boat to Britain after years of captivity and traveled to St. Martin's monastery in Tours, France, where he studied under Saint German of Auxerre and became a priest. In 431 A. D. Pope Celestine I named him Patricius and sent him on a mission to Ireland. In 432 A.D. He arrived in Ireland and successfully converted much of the island from Druidism to Christianity.

He wrote The Confession, defending his life of service and also wrote A Letter to Coroticus attacking slavery and denouncing British King Coroticus for kidnapping and enslaving his converts. These works are the only documents to have survived the fall of Rome and are in the Bibliotheque National in Paris.

Saint Patrick became primatial bishop in 455 A. D. at Ard Macha, a hill away from Emain Macha seat of Ulster Kings. He died on March 17 in 461 A. D. The date of his death is disputed between March 8 and 9, so they were added together to create the holiday. Today Saint Patrick is revered by many Christian denominations and he is the official saint of the Church of Ireland.

In addition to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, the day designated to honor him, many people go to sacred wells, mountains, and place-names in his honor throughout the year.

I have had the great fortune to live in many communities that celebrate historical holidays and observe anniversaries important to their heritage. Even though I myself do not have any green blood in my veins, I find myself celebrating it anyway. However I have found that being an avid reader and genuinely interested in history I understand the importance of recognizing our forefathers, whoever they may be and whatever nationality they are.

Like I said at the beginning of this column, we are fortunate to live in a county that is a melting pot of cultures and it is important we continue honoring and recognizing all of them.


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March 6, 2003
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