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St Patrick

52 53 st PatrIcks day new world fun and old world rites Nowadays we think of enormous parades on the seventeenth of March where all and sundry proclaim Irish roots. Appropriately, the first one was in Boston in 1737. Everywhere now beer turns green, as do teeth, bagpipes and hair, but wood sorrel is no longer shamrock. That honour has been transferred to an inedible clover which only reached Ireland four hundred years ago. In the Irish countryside things were a little different. Spring festival customs attached themselves to Patrick much like Lughnasa, so St Patricks was the day for planting lilies and the first potatoes. On the summit of St Patricks Hill near Straffan, another tribal assembly site, a mass was said. Afterwards the boys threw lumps of earth at each other, for this was the day to first turn the ground. Below the hill are a well and a tiny church they say he built, a place of new beginnings elsewhere farmers started working the ground with the spade again on the Seventeenth, or the plough cut its first furrow. Water in streams and wells lose their winter cold then, for Patrick warms the stones, and he has wells all over Ireland. Also, every green rush grows with a brown tip because he cursed them for pricking him when he once sat down on them.
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