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Irish for the weekend

By BILL MICKELSON

What’s Up Writer

“Everyone’s Irish on March 17.”

That phrase is written across a beam in the Guinness storehouse in the Saint James Brewery in Dublin — Ireland’s No. 1 visitor’s attraction.

Saint Patrick’s Day, in that same vein, is probably the country’s second most famous institution, celebrated in one way or another around the world. Whether it be dressing in green, marching down the street, putting up a leprechaun in the front yard or doing one’s part by stocking up on Guinness in homage, people in America have taken to Ireland’s national holiday, with an emphasis on its beverages.

Which makes one wonder — do the Irish break out their red, white and blue and drink Budweiser and Coors on July 4?

Probably not.

But a quick study of the man for whom the holiday is named — Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland — may reveal a bit of why March 17 is feted in so many countries around the world.

Saint Patrick, a fifth century holy man, wasn’t even Irish.

Though a sparing amount of his history is known, he’s said to have been born in Roman Britain and around the age of 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to their country as a slave.

Some years later, he escaped and returned to his family, where he followed in the tradition of his father and grandfather into the church.

A few years after that he was beckoned back to Ireland through ministry.

Pious Irish legends credit Patrick with banishing snakes from the island and teaching its people the concept of the holy Trinity by way of the shamrock.

Whether or not the legends are isn’t fully known, but the fact that there are so many legends about the man paints a picture of how important his ministry was.

March 17 is believed to be the day he died, and is therefore feted with a feast. That feast day has evolved into daylong — sometimes multiple daylong — festivals, around the world.

Americans have celebrated Saint Patrick with parades and shamrocks since the Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the colonies in 1737.

But interestingly, in Ireland, the first St. Patrick’s festival wasn’t held until 1996. It had long been a strictly religious holiday that divided people by allegiance until recently becoming more of a fluid celebration of “Irishness.”

Here in Kitsap this weekend, bars and pubs around the peninsula will be honoring Irishness with drink specials and gallons of Guinness continuing all the way through the actual holiday on Monday.

Today downtown Bremerton and the Bremerton Main Stream Association will be hosting its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade featuring the Knights of Columbus Color Guard, the Tacoma Scots Bagpipe Band and Grand Marshall Tom Danaher.

All dogs, kids, cars, wagons and bikes are welcome in the community parade. Sign in will be from 10:45-11 a.m. today at Westsound Bank on the corner of Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue. Then at 11:30 a.m. the parade will begin traveling to First Street onto Washington Avenue and down to the Harborside.

Food, fair and perhaps a few jigs will follow.

Bremerton’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be at 11:30 a.m. today, starting on Sixth Street and traveling down to the Harborside. All kids, dogs, cars, wagons and bikes are welcome in the community parade. Sign-ups will be from 10:45-11 a.m. at the Westsound Bank on the corner of Sixth and Pacific. Info: http://bremertonmsa.org or call (360) 377-3041

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