If you live in Asia, the shamrock—a common low-growing plant with three heart-shaped leaves on each stem—probably doesn't mean much to you. But show a shamrock to a Westerner, and the first thing that will pop into his or her mind is "St. Patrick's Day!"
Celebrated on March 17 each year, St. Patrick's Day is the day when the people of Ireland commemorate their patron saint. And in other parts of the world, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into an ethnic holiday celebrating Irish heritage, especially in places with a significant Irish immigrant population, such as the United States.
But nowhere in the world does the holiday bustle with more noise and excitement than Dublin, the Irish capital. Dublin's St. Patrick's Festival, the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration in the world, abounds with carnival-style parades, spectacular fireworks, and outdoor dance events. People dress in green (the color of Ireland) from top to toe, drink Guinness® (Ireland’s signature dark beer), and dance and sing from morning to night. But who was St. Patrick, and why is he so important to the Irish?
St. Patrick was the man who, in the 5th century, introduced Ireland to Christianity and successfully transformed the country into a Catholic nation. St. Patrick's gift was that he could explain complicated things to people in ways that were easy for them to understand. For example, he used the common shamrock in his sermons to explain to people the concept of the Christian Trinity—that God is three separate persons but is still only one God. He said the shamrock's three leaves represented God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—all separate but joined to form a whole. The shamrock became the saint's symbol, and its green color became representative of the saint, the holiday, and then Ireland itself.
A peddler who owned an ass one day bought a quantity of salt, and loaded up his beast with as much as he could carry. On the way home, the ass slipped as he was crossing a stream and fell into the water. The salt got thoroughly wet and much of it melted and drained away, so that when he got on his legs again, the ass found his load had become much lighter.
His master, however, drove him back to town and bought more salt, which he added to what remained in the baskets, and started out again. As soon as they had reached the stream, the ass lay down in it and rose, as before, with a much lighter load.
But his master detected the trick and turning back once more, bought a large number of sponges and piled them on the back of the ass. When they came to the stream the ass again lay down, but this time, as the sponges soaked up large quantities of water, the ass found when he got up on his legs that he had a heavier burden to carry than ever.