St. Patrick’s Street Party
Friday morning, I got dressed for work just like every other work day. I got in my car and fiddled around with the radio trying to find my local radio station to check on traffic. On one station, an announcer said something like…stay tuned to learn the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day.
This caught my attention because I’d had a conversation with The Dane earlier. He mentioned that St. Patrick is the patron saint of engineers. The Dane attended college at MSOE (Milwaukee School of Engineering). He said that St. Patrick’s Day was always a lot of fun at MSOE. He described various activities. Mostly, stuff that we all know about – parades, drinking, shamrocks. But he also mentioned that there was a ritual whereby someone, appointed I guess, would go around and cut the professors neckties in half. So, the announcer caught my attention and I thought maybe I’d find out why there was a tradition of cutting ties and where it came from.
What I learned surprised me, as history often does. (Did I ever mention that I have a minor in history and almost decided to teach it as a high school teacher?)
The announcer told the story of St. Patrick and much of it I’d never heard, so I thought I would share it with all of you.
St. Patrick was not born in Ireland. He was actually born in Roman Britain, now Dumbarton, Scotland, in the 5th Century (around 389AD, though some sources say as early as 387AD). At 16, he was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave. Patrick spent the next six years tending his master’s sheep. His grandfather was a minister, so the lessons of God taught to him as a boy came back to him during his captivity and he spent his time in prayer. One night, Patrick had a dream that he would escape. Acting on the dream, Patrick did escape and made his way back home.
During this time, Ireland was still pagan. A man by the name of Palladius had come to Ireland in hopes of bringing Christianity to the people. He had not been very successful and was replaced by the former slave. By that time, Patrick was in his mid-40s. Patrick’s former master was a clan Chieftain. Because of this, Patrick was intimately familiar with the Irish Clan System and the Irish tongue. Patrick knew that the best way to convert the Irish into Christianity was to first convert the chiefs and he knew how – by speaking their language. If he could win them over, the chiefs would convert their clans by influence.
One of Patrick’s earliest converts was his former master.
The most powerful story about St. Patrick happened on Easter Sunday, March 26, 433. An oracle had announced to the Irish people that a messenger of Christ had come to Erin.
As it turns out, on Easter Eve, St. Patrick had arrived at the hill of Slane, where he kindled the Paschal fire (a blessed fire). A portion of the Irish saw the fire and raised their voices that the fire would be extinguished that night, along with Patrick, or it would burn forever in Ireland. Repeated attempts were made to put out the fire, but the fire was not extinguished, nor was Patrick harmed.
On Easter morning, Patrick set forth to Tara. Ireland’s best magicians spoke their most powerful incantations, but the prayer and faith of Patrick stood firm. A cloud filled the sky. Patrick defied the magicians to remove the cloud. They tried and failed. Patrick began to pray and as he prayed, the sun began to shine. It is said, that Patrick then plucked a shamrock and explained the Holy Trinity to the crowd. After that, the King granted St. Patrick permission to preach throughout Ireland.
Through his years of service, Patrick traveled all over Ireland and became a powerful missionary that helped make Ireland one of Europe’s Christian epicenters. (Source)
So why is St. Patrick the patron saint of engineers? After being given permission to preach throughout Ireland, St. Patrick is credited with teaching the Irish how to build arches of lime mortar instead of dry masonry. These arches were instrumental in the construction of Irish clay churches. (Source)
As for the MSOE tie-cutting event…according to an article at the MSOE site, there is an event called the Raider Rally and St. Patrick’s Proclamation Signing. Apparently, if the Proclamation is signed, classes are cancelled for the day. A traditional St. Pat’s Court dresses in colorful garb and they run around cutting ties of those who might otherwise try to keep students in class. Fun tradition.
Now we know!
This year, we attended a street party. There were a couple of live bands, vendors selling all manner of goods (and food), and plenty of people dressed up in green.
Hope all of you had a very fun St Patrick’s Day! I’m curious to know how you celebrated.