With any luck, St. Patrick’s Day will bring full bellies and full beer mugs. While there are Irish tunes, blessings, drinks, and colors splashed about our dining rooms and bars, there are also fun stories, legends and myths to share among our friends. Being the bookworm that I am, I looked into some of these money related golden tidbits picked up from across Ireland and scattered into American culture.
Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? A rainbow is a scientific phenomenon by which the moisture in the atmosphere (note the word ‘sphere’) reflects sunlight. Gold and pots are unrelated to humidity, rain, and the shape of the earth, and thanks to Albert Einstein, we now know that matter and energy cannot appear and disappear from nothing.
A leprechaun offering to help a poor couple taunts their greedy appetite instead with the promise of this gold found at this location. Due to the science of light refraction, you cannot actually perceive yourself at the end of the rainbow: the distance to the “end” always stays the same from where you are.
Contrary to popular belief though, there is frequently an “end” to the rainbow. I have a photograph of this supposed full circle encountering the earth, where it comes between the vantage point and the mountainside in the background. Here is another photo with the science explained.
“Pot of gold” is also used in avariety of others ways in our everyday language, Here area few of their meanings:
- Searching fruitlessly: Running after the pot of gold
- Success: Reaching the pot of gold
- Unlikely discovery or success: The company was a pot of gold
- Following dreams: Go after the pot of gold
- The treasure is in the journey: The hunt for the pot of gold
Are there Emeralds on the Emerald Isle? Emeralds, due to the fact they are beryl (a clear mineral) with chromium and vanadium traces, and that these minerals are not commonly in the same layers of earth, are freaks of nature, brought about by years of evolutionary geologic forces like upheavals, erosion, and compression. Emeralds have grown in Africa, Egypt specifically; South America, Columbia famously; the Mid-Asian continent; and North Carolina. Ireland does not have the geological history or make up to have emeralds.
The nickname does, however refer to Ireland’s geographical nature. The location of the island, against the western cost of the European continent, sets this piece of land under fog, rain, and other heavy moisture, which provides for lush green vegetation. Even the drier areas are inundated with wide, green views.
Emerald comes to English from the Greek, through the French word “esmeralde” or “green gemstone,” Thus, a beautiful luscious green “gem” of an island.
Is Corned Beef and Cabbage the meal of the common (not rich) Irishman? Pork, pheasant, and mutton were the meats of availability to the Irish. Even the story of preserving the beef for Easter dinner is reserved for the kings, or at least the extremely wealthy, or even for export. Cattle were raised in Ireland for their milk and thus, cheese and other dairy products are prevalant. Cabbage, on the other hand, was eaten, but not boiled: fried!
Immigrants to America found beef and salt to be much cheaper commodities than their traditional bacon. Corned beef and cabbage became an Irish-American tradition, as did the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day as one of all things Irish. Some of the beef in American markets that was preserved by corning was, ironically, imported from Ireland.
Are Leprechauns really hoarding gold? Legend has it if you manage to capture this fairy, keep your sight of him, and threaten to hurt him, he will lead you to hidden gold, buried as dogs bury bones. If you catch a leprechaun, remember they are tricky, and maybe we’ll find out the truth of this legend.
Though I find myself sitting on a big pile of “know-it-all,” I’ll still be looking to the far reaches of the rainbows, and I’ll still be wearing my lucky green three leaf clover. Although a bit of hope remains for a pile of sequestered wealth, I’ll have to wait for a visit to the beautiful Ireland to find my leprechaun. In the meantime, kiss an Irishman for good luck, and enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day in full American style. The Luck of the Irish to ya!
Image courtesy of pbo31