Irish eyes will be smiling this St. Patrick’s Day

Shamrocks, green beer or Irish heritage. All these things might make St. Patrick’s Day more special, but really it’s a light-hearted day that most people in some way recognize.

Many might wear green this Thursday, and others pinch those who aren’t wearing green. An odd custom to be sure, but it somehow fits with this day which dates back centuries to a mysterious fellow by the name of – wait for it – St. Patrick.

This man lived around the time of 387 to 461 AD, and is the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day originated as a Catholic holiday and eventually became an official feast day in the early 17th century.

It gradually became more of a secular celebration of Irish culture.

According to Wikipedia, originally the colour associated with Saint Patrick was blue. But over the years the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick’s Day grew. Of course this is fitting, with St. Paddy hailing from the Emerald Isle.

Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick’s Day as early as the 17th century. “(St. Patrick) is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day.”

Today, it’s a holiday that has reached an international status that the humble St. Patrick couldn’t have possibly dreamed of. Apart from wearing something green, one of the more common means of marking the holiday is by guzzling a pint of green beer for example.

But there are much more unique ways the day is commemorated as well. In the last number of years, the water in the White House fountain has been dyed green to mark the occasion.

As well, the Chicago River has been dyed green as well for that city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Not to be left out, Japan is also increasingly marking the day. The first parade, in Tokyo, was organized in the early 1990s.

The tiny island of Montserrat, known as ‘Emerald Island of the Caribbean’ because of its founding by Irish refugees from St. Kitts and Nevis, is the only place in the world apart from Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday.

Meanwhile, on a serious not, Catholic Social Services wished to remind folks about perhaps switching cocktails for mocktails this St. Paddy’s Day. It was part of an initiative to help shatter myths about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

It only takes a couple of alcoholic drinks to begin a process with lifelong implications.

FASD, is an umbrella term used to describe a range of disabilities that result from prenatal alcohol exposure. It is the leading cause of developmental disability in Canada, officials say.

It is estimated that more than 36,000 Albertans are affected by FASD, and that a baby is born with FASD every day in the province. Officials say that he annual cost in Alberta is $927.5 million, which includes the cost of health, social, educational, and correctional services, as well as productivity losses and other costs.

The individuals affected by FASD that CSS staff assist on a daily basis struggle with everyday living tasks one might take for granted, and often require involvement from family and/or support staff to improve their chances of living a successful life.

To address this serious social issue, CSS offers a range of programs.

In Red Deer, the FASD Outreach ministry supports children and adults who have FASD (or are suspecting of having FASD), as well as their families through helping to develop life skills and by providing crisis support intervention.