Monday, March 17, 2014

성 패트릭의 날 - Saint Patrick's Day

The following short biography of St. Patrick is from the Book of Common Prayer.

Patrick of Ireland (389 – 461)

At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped from his home by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a chieftain and forced to herd livestock. After six years of slavery, Patrick escaped to his native Britain. Because he believed that his captivity and deliverance were ordained by God, Patrick devoted his life to ministry. While studying for the priesthood, he experienced recurring dreams in which he heard voices say, “O holy youth, come back to Erin and walk once more amongst us.” He convinced his superiors to let him return to Ireland in 432, not to seek revenge for injustice but to seek reconciliation and to spread his faith. Over the next thirty years, Patrick established churches and monastic communities across Ireland. When he was not engaged in the work of spreading the Christian faith, Patrick spent his time praying in his favorite places of solitude and retreat.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Unsurprisingly, absolutely no one in my school knew about the holiday. The extent of my students' knowledge of Ireland (아일랜드) ends at its location on the world map at the back of my classroom: "next to United Kingdom." I came to school with my green shirt, green cardigan, green bow tie, and green corduroys and began each period with a "top of the marnin' to ya, class!" in my barely-passable Irish accent. My students said, "Teacher, what language is that?"

No green to be seen! It's not a common color for my students to wear. My co-teacher happened to be wearing a lovely green ensemble, but it turns out she had picked the color because it was a nice spring day (China's yellow dust notwithstanding). Our cafeteria did not serve any green food (and it wasn't even the absence of food coloring; I realized that our school lunches don't do green vegetables very well. They're always either canned, pickled, or drenched in some mayo-based sauce...)

Having expected this lack of spirit, I'd taken on the task of introducing a bit of Irish(-American) culture to my school by hastily repurposing the tail end of my lesson on pipe dreams to talk about Saint Patrick's Day. Fun activities included hiding little paper clovers all around the classroom to have students search high and low for the single four-leafed one (네잎 클로버) and watching some Irish step dance! My students now know that people drink 13 million pints of Guinness (기네스) on Saint Patrick's Day and that the Chicago River is turned an impossible shade of green.

The funny thing is that I've rarely celebrated Saint Patrick's Day myself. The Irish-American community in the States is very large (nearly 12% of the population), but in northern California, I was surrounded by Asians. Saint Patrick's Day for me was just a fun day to wear green to school, drink green milk, and pinch my friends; it never meant anything more. Yet here in Korea I feel a sort of duty to share what little I know with my school community, since I -- who have had nothing whatsoever to do with Irish culture -- represent America to them. Odd, isn't it? Hopefully today's mini cultural lesson will pique a student's interest and they'll want to find out more about the rich history and heritage of Ireland.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

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