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British Culture, British Customs and British Traditions

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This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!

St Patrick (c.389-c.461) is the patron saint of Ireland (and strangely enough Nigeria). He was an ancient Briton living during the time when Britain was a colony of the Roman Empire. He was reared in a Christian home and the family lived in what we now know of as Wales. When he was sixteen he was captured by pirates from across the Irish Sea and taken to Ireland. While working as a shepherd, he had a great spiritual experience and decided that he must serve God in some special way. He returned to his native land and trained as a priest, travelling to Gaul (now France) for some of his studies. Eventually, he returned to Ireland as a missionary.

St. Patrick's work in Ireland transformed the country. Legend has it that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland and they all went into the sea and drowned. The snake was a revered pagan symbol, and perhaps this is a metaphor for the fact that he drove paganism out of Ireland. Whatever the truth of the matter, there are to this day no venemous snakes in Ireland. He is said to have converted the country's druids by calling down heavenly fire to show the power of the One True God. And he taught people about the mystery of the Trinity by using a shamrock leaf and made the shamrock the symbol of Ireland.

In Ireland, March 17th is a public holiday in celebration of his life and death. It is also a day when most people attend church. Shamrocks are sold on the preceding days and sent along with greeting cards to friends and family abroad. The day is usually regarded in Ireland as announcing the coming of spring. Dances and parties are held. The traditional dish is boiled bacon and cabbage, but you might prefer to try the Soda Bread recipe on the recipes page.

The feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is celebrated all over the world wherever Irish exiles gather. Many wear a shamrock or a little favour showing a golden harp on a bit of green ribbon.

British Culture