There’s more to St. Patrick’s Day than wearing green and drinking beer

BUCKHANNON – Today is St. Patrick’s Day – are you wearing green?

Over the years, folks seem to celebrate this special day whether they are Irish or not – and most people say they wear green to keep from being pinched, while many others celebrate by indulging in a green beer or two.

But have you considered what folks with true Irish roots do to commemorate this holiday? And just who was St. Patrick and why do we observe March 17 as St. Patrick’s Day?

Brother Roy Madigan, S.M., pastoral associate at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Buckhannon said St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, even though he was not born there.

“From what I understand, he was not originally Irish,” Madigan said. “He was a slave from Great Britain, and he was brought to Ireland.”

Although most people tell a tale that St. Patrick is known for driving the snakes out of Ireland, Madigan said he was well-known for explaining about the Blessed Trinity.

“St. Patrick would take an Irish clover and use it to talk about the Holy Trinity,” Madigan said. “He would talk about how it was a three-leaf clover – one leaf for the Father, one leaf for the Son and one leaf for the Holy Spirit, but it is still one clover and one God.”

He said St. Patrick was a slave and said he converted many Irish folks to Catholicism.

“St. Patrick was a bishop in Ireland,” Madigan explained.

Madigan, who is Irish, said when he was growing up, his family always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by eating corned beef and cabbage.

“We also had potatoes,” he recalled. “We would celebrate with one beer at the end of dinner that we shared. If St. Patrick’s Day fell on Sunday, we would always attend Mass.”

He said other times, he and his family would celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with parties.

“Our family and friends would gather in the evening and tell stories about our grandparents who were from Ireland. We always sang ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Tura Lura Lura.’”

Madigan said he was a Novice in Ireland for a year.

“A novice is a person who is preparation to become a member of a religious community,” he explained. “I was there for one year and fortunately, I was able to go all over Ireland.”

“I want to wish everyone a very happy St. Patrick’s Day,” Madigan said.

According to the online history sources, March 17 is believed to have been date of St. Patrick’s death, and he lived during the fifth century A.D.; however, historians disagree on the exact date of his birth and death.

In the “Confession of St. Patrick,” he said he was born in Roman Britain, and at the age of 16 was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved for six years. His given name was Maewyn Succat, and he took the name Patrick when he became a priest.

Local resident Ruth Rase Humphrey enjoyed embracing her Irish heritage as a child and shared many Irish traditions with her own family.

“This year I made scones – blueberry, lemon and almond ones,” Humphrey said. “They were made using a recipe from my mother’s cousins. I prefer these because they are not as sweet and are more like a biscuit.”

Humphrey said she serves her scones with butter and a little bit of jam – store-bought jam – but said in the past she would make homemade jam. She said she enjoys serving them with tea and just a little sugar.

“Growing up we always drank black tea with sugar and a little bit of cream,” she said. “Now I drink Barry’s Irish tea. It’s really good and has a beautiful clear reddish-brown color.”

This year, Humphrey will serve corned beef, cabbage and red potatoes. (By the way, corned beef doesn’t contain corn; it’s named that because when the beef is cured, salt that was as large as corn kernels is thought to have been used in the process.)

Two trips to Ireland gave Humphrey the opportunity to see the beautiful green countryside, explore castles, taste many wonderful foods and meet some of her cousins.

“In 1999, my sister and I took my mother, Madalyn Hoover Rase, to Ireland to meet her cousins,” she said. “I also traveled to Ireland about three years ago with my sister as we followed my sister Pat around Ireland with her choir.”

Humphrey said while growing up, she remembers her mom singing songs, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, like “Oh Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

“There were seven of us kids, and on St. Patrick’s Day, mom would make sure we wore green,” she said. “You couldn’t wear orange – getting seven kids all dressed in green was no small feat. If you didn’t wear green, you would get pinched by your friends.”

So, today is a day to celebrate life.

Whether you are Irish or not, you might enjoy sitting down to a nice cup of warm tea, enjoying a scone and having a special dinner with corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.

If you’re looking for other ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, dress in green, sing traditional Irish songs and pinch those around you who aren’t wearing green.

Another idea?

Drive to Ireland, West Virginia, in Lewis County to enjoy the Irish Spring Festival, which continues through Wednesday, March 20, at the Community Center in Ireland, located at 65 Community Dr. For more information search for the event on Facebook or contact Stephanie Singleton at 304-453-9919 or check out the Lewis County Convention and Visitors Bureau website at

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