Who Was St. Patrick and Why Was His Holiday Invented in America?

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St. Patrick's Day Parade
St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St. Patrick’s day is one of two “foreign” beer holidays (not counting New Year’s Eve) that were actually invented here in the United States, not imported. The other, of course, is Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Other holidays, such as Christmas, originate elsewhere but we excel at making our own.

Why, other than the green beer, is St. Patrick’s Day so popular? The last Census showed that 34.1 million Americans have Irish ancestry. That’s seven times the population of Ireland. Chances are that you’ve got a wee bit o’ the Celt in you. The coronavirus is not going to stop you from celebrating, right?

Who was the Real St. Patrick?

Patrick was born not in Ireland, but in Britain into a Romanized family. At 16 years of age he was abducted by Irish raiders from his father’s villa. His abductor was Calpurnius who was a deacon and a minor local official. Patrick was carried off into slavery in Ireland. There he spent six bleak years there working as a herdsman, during which time he turned with fervor to his faith. When he dreamt that the ship in which he was to escape was ready, he escaped from his master and found passage to England. There he approached starvation and endured another brief captivity before being reunited with his family. It is thought that after that he may have paid a short visit to the Continent.

The best known passage in the Confessio speaks of a dream, following his return to England, in which one Victoricus offered him a letter titled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, he heard a company of Irish folk asking him to walk once more among them. “Deeply moved,” he says, “I could read no more.” Nevertheless, because of the brevity of his education, he was reluctant for a long time to answer the call. Even on the eve of reembarkation to Ireland he was overwhelmed by doubts of his fitness for the task. Once there however, his hesitations vanished. Completely confident in the Lord, he wandered far and wide, baptizing and confirming with true zeal. In diplomatic fashion he brought gifts to a minor king here and a lawgiver there but accepted none from any.

Legends of St. Patrick

  • St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. In truth, Ireland never had snakes because they couldn’t get there for one reason or another. Other islands that don’t have snakes include New Zealand, Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland, and Antarctica.
  • Patrick raised people from the dead. A 12th-century hagiography places this number at 33 men, some of whom are said to have been deceased for many years.
  • He enshrined the shamrock, which he used to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish. The shamrock represents three persons in one God, to an unbeliever by showing him the three-leaved plant with one stalk. Traditionally, Irishmen have worn shamrocks, the national flower of Ireland, in their lapels on St. Patrick’s Day.
  • He created the Celtic Cross which super-imposed a circle, representing the sun, onto the traditional crucifix in order to convert the Irish. There are many other competing theories as to the origin but this is as good as any.
A Celtic Cross
A Celtic Cross

St. Patrick’s Day is American?

Yes. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade happened not in Ireland but in the good old United States, that veritable melting pot. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers who were serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.

Today in New York City the parade is the world ‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in all of the United States, numbering over 150,000 participants. Ever year, nearly 3 million people line up on the 1.5-mile parade route to view the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Savannah join them in celebrating the Celtic day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants each.

So who isn’t ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day even if it’s an American holiday? Chances are that a bit of you hails from Dublin, Galway, or County Clare. I’ll take any excuse to eat more potatoes.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Santa Claus vs. Sinterklaas

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The Traditional American Version of Santa Claus
The Traditional American Version of Santa Claus
Sinterklaas Arrives in Amsterdam
Sinterklaas Arrives in Amsterdam

Judging by the two images above, Santa Claus and Sinterklaas look remarkably similar. They have the same copious hair and whiskers, the same predominately red and white garment color scheme, and a jovial spirit. But, that’s where the similarities begin to diverge.

The Origins and History of Santa Claus

Some say that the original Santa Claus was Saint Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, a small Roman town in modern Turkey in Anatolia. This was around 270 AD. He had a reputation for secretly giving gifts to those in need.

Although his suit is red today, it was originally green. His marital status has changed; Santa was a bachelor until around 1849 when a wife (Mrs Claus) was mentioned in the short story, ‘A Christmas Legend’ written by James Rees.

What about that jolly face? How accurate is our portrayal to the real St. Nick of yesteryear? The short answer is that it may be very close. Why? It is believed by some scholars that St. Nicholas’ bones were absconded by Italian sailors during the 11th century and taken to the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola located on the southeast coast of Italy. The crypt was repaired in the 1950s and the Nick’s skull and bones were documented with x-ray photos and thousands of detailed measurements. From there, scientists used modern forensic facial reconstruction to give us the image we know and love today.

But where did the tradition of giving gifts to children begin? We have two stories to illustrate this. The first one is better known and goes like this: three young girls are saved from a life of prostitution when the young Bishop Nicholas quietly delivers three bags of gold to their indebted father, which he can use for their dowries. The second tale relates that St. Nicholas entered an inn whose keeper had just crudely murdered three boys and pickled their dismembered bodies in basement barrels. The bishop not only sensed the crime, but resurrected the victims as well. Hence, he became the patron saint of children.

In the 1500s the Protestant Reformation began and good old St. Nick fell out of favor across northern Europe. But in the Netherlands, kids and families would not give up St. Nicholas as a gift bringer. And that’s when they brought Sinterklaas with them to New World colonies.

The Origins and History of Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (his name is a contraction of Sint Nikolaas) is based on St. Nick but cast in a Dutch mold. He looks similar in that he is a jolly old sod dressed in red but he sports a bishop’s hat, rides a white horse, and carries a long, curled shepherd’s staff. An important distinction is that the Dutch conceptualize him as a kindly old man instead of a Catholic saint. The end result is that Sinterklaas is celebrated by Dutch people of all ages and beliefs, without any real religious connotations.

The rituals surrounding Sinterklass and Santa differ as well. The Feast of Sinterklaas is held on December 6th, the day that St. Nick passed away. This is when gifts are exchanged and good-natured fun is made of loved ones. Christmas is focused on family and church services, not gift-giving.

The Sinterklass-Santa Connection

The general consensus is that Sinterklaas was the precursor of our Santa Claus tradition. Many historians hold that Dutch and German settlers carried the tradition with them when they went to America. There, his Catholic garb was bit by bit morphed into the jolly non-sectarian red suit with the white fur trim we are all familiar with. Also, his lithe frame gave way to a well-padded potbelly, and his trusty white horse was traded in for a troupe of reindeer. Either way, both Sinterklaas and Santa Claus stand for the generosity of spirit and kindness to children.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


The Rational Bible: Genesis; a Book Review

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This volume by Dennis Prager (the second in the Rational Bible series, ISBN-10: 1621578984, ISBN: 978-1621578987) was released after the his take on the Book of Exodus. Why write the books out of order? As I stated in my Exodus review, ” As Prager says, “The Torah: because its central message–that God is good and demands that we be good–is the only belief that will enable us to make a good world.” So I will assume that Prager wants readers to grasp the central message even if they don’t read the rest of the series.

After reading these first two books, I was inspired to order a copy of The Torah and I am currently reading it. Although it is essentially the same as the Old Testament of Christian edition bibles, it is closer to the original before various kings, monks, and “officials” tinkered with it. As they say, the devil is in the details. (“Let us guide the populace?”) So, reading this in addition to Prager’s first book of the series book gives additional insight.

Why All the Explanation?

Well, this is an interesting question. I can answer it for myself but you may have other views. In my opinion the Bible is damnably hard to read, and then interpreting the underlying meaning of the text is almost impossible. So if one has a literal understanding of the verses, the contextual understanding may be skewed.

This is where Prager’s works come into their own. He is a Talmudic scholar, speaks the lingo, has studied the text for many years, and applies his common (or not-so-common) sense to his interpretation.

My Opinion

I think if you have just started reading Dennis Prager’s series of The Rational Bible or are considering reading the bible, you can now start with Exodus or Genesis, but start now if you want a detailed ride.

I hope that you have found my review of The Rational Bible : Genesis a help. If so please forward it to your friends. We bring you the best info that we can find but this site relies on donations, not subscriptions,


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


The Rational Bible: Exodus; a Book Review

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The Rational Bible: Exodus (ISBN 978-1-62157-772-0) is the first book in a series authored by religious scholar and talk show host Dennis Prager. Rather than starting with the first book of the Torah (Old Testament or the first five books of the Bible) he begins with Exodus.

Why Begin with the Book of Exodus?

Why not begin at the beginning? Good question. The Book of Genesis is the first book and it would seem to be the place for Prager to start. But Exodus really gets to the meat of the matter. It encapsulates the essence of the message. As Prager says, “the Torah: because its central message–that God is good and demands that we be good–is the only belief that will enable us to make a good world.”

It sounds simple and that is exactly what it is; it’s not rocket science. But, up until this point in human history religion had never embraced this simple concept. But this is what Exodus is all about. Monotheism and the system of commandments that are the foundation of a moral existence. Prager says the Ten Commandments are, “the most important moral code in world history, and the central moral code of the Torah.”

Face It; Reading the Bible is Hard

Most modern people have attempted to read the Bible and failed. The translations are ambiguous and the phrasing is cryptic. In this book, however, Prager does the hard work for us. He puts the actual passages in bold and then goes into excruciating detail to explain the meaning. He does so with reason, logic, and the experience of a life-long study of the material. It could be said that he takes a scientific approach to explain the mystical.

Since he works from the Torah rather than one of the many Christian translations, and the fact that he is fluent in Hebrew (where words and phrases can have multiple meanings) his observations are likely the closest thing to reality that a layperson can hope to attain. After all, he has been teaching the Torah verse-by-verse for eighteen years.

The Deeper Meaning of the Plagues Visited Upon Egypt

Exodus of course means  the departure of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses. This was quite a process since the Pharaoh was reluctant to let all this free labor go. One might wonder why God did not just “make it happen” rather to instruct Moses to visit the Ten Plagues upon the Pharaoh and Egypt.

God had to convince not only the Egyptians but also the Israelites that he was the one and only God. The Egyptians worshiped many nature Gods and each plague was directly connected with destroying the belief in one of them. 

The first plague turned the Nile water into blood; so much for the Nile Gods. The second plague, that of the frog infestation, destroyed belief if the frog God and Goddess. So on and so forth.

Moral Absolutes and Moral Relativism in Modern Society

Sam Malone coined the phrase “the Godless Alt-Left” and while it might be primarily click-bait, it’s not far off the mark. The modern left has not only become an anything-goes cult but in a contradictory way has become the intolerant that trumpets the virtue of all-tolerant.

Prager points out that moral truths by definition require God. Scientific truths can be proven or disproved but moral ones can’t. Why is murder wrong? Because it is right there in the Commandments. Keep in mind that there is a distinction between murder and killing which is where the opposition to capital punishment using a religious justification falls apart.

A Book that Warrants Re-Reading

While reading The Rational Bible: Exodus is revealing, instructive, and entertaining, there is so much food for thought in it that it is hard to digest it all in one setting. Like one of those favorite movies, you will find yourself asking, “How did I miss that the first time around?”

This book contains important lessons on politics, morality, religion, history, philosophy, and the direction society is heading.


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