More facts about Ireland

Patty's Day

St. Patrick's Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed he died on March 17, 461 AD. St. Patrick's Day is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. It is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Who was St. Patrick?

St. Patrick was born in 385 AD somewhere along the west coast of Britain, possibly in the Welsh town of Banwen. At 16, he was captured and sold into slavery to a sheep farmer. He escaped when he was 22 and spent the next 12 years in a monastery. When he was in his 30s, he returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He died at Saul in 461 AD and is buried at Downpatrick.

How is the holiday celebrated?

* In Ireland, people traditionally wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jackets or caps on St. Patrick's Day. Children wear orange, white and green badges, and women and girls wear green ribbons in their hair.

* The St. Patrick's Day custom came to North America in 1737.

* Dublin has a parade that attracts hundreds of thousands of people, while in Chicago the Chicago River is dyed green for a few hours. The biggest parade is normally held in New York City, while the largest celebration in the southern hemisphere is in Sydney, Australia.

* Everyone will be wearing green on St. Patrick's Day this year, including some iconic buildings -- the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and the CN Tower will be bathed in green floodlights.* Ireland is the third largest island in Europe and the 26th largest island in the world.

* Ireland has an area of 70,273 square kilometres.

* The longest river in Ireland, the Shannon, is also the longest river in the British Isles.

* Ireland is a country of many rivers and lakes. Lakes are referred to as loughs (pronounced "locks"), such as Lough Swilly.

* Ireland has no snakes.

* Shannon became the world's first duty-free airport in 1947.

* There is no death penalty in Ireland.

* Ireland is a neutral state and is not a member of NATO.

* The doomed Titanic ship was built in Belfast.

* Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company was the son of an Irish emigrant.

* The Irish Police force, called the Gardai, are unarmed; however, detectives do carry firearms.

* There are more mobile phones in Ireland than there are people.

* A recent study shows there are now more Polish speakers in Ireland than native Irish speakers. More than 5 per cent of the population of Ireland is Polish.

Compiled by The Hamilton Spectator

Traditional Irish dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes

* 1 to 4 lb (450 to 1400 g) corned beef brisket

* 4 allspice berries

* 2 bay leaves

* 1 tsp (5 mL) mustard seeds

* 1 onion, quartered

* 1 bulb garlic, cut crosswise so each clove is cut in half

* 1 tsp (5 mL) black peppercorns

* 1 whole clove, optional

* 1 medium head cabbage, cut into eighths

* 1 lb (450 g) small (about 1-inch (3 cm) in diameter) red potatoes

Cooking instructions

1. Rinse corned beef under running water. Place in large pot. Add allspice, bay leaves, mustard seeds, onion, garlic, peppercorns and clove. Add enough water to cover.

2. Bring to a boil. Skim any scum, if needed. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook about 4 hours or until fork-tender. Remove and keep warm.

3. Strain out spices and vegetables from cooking water. Add cabbage and potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes until tender.

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