Born in Britain during the 4th century, St. Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish raiders when he was a teenager. Although he was able to escape after six years and become a priest in Britain, he later chose to return to Ireland as a missionary, in order to help spread the teachings of Christianity to pagans. According to Irish folklore, he also used a shamrock to explain the Christian concept of Trinity to the Irish. In spite of continuous opposition from pagan leaders, he continued to evangelize for thirty years while baptizing newly converted Christians and establishing monasteries, churches, and schools. He died on March 17th and was canonized by the local church.
St. Patrick's Day was first publicly celebrated in Boston in 1737 where a large population of Irish immigrants resided. Nearly 200 years later, the first St. Patrick's Day parade in the Irish Free State was held in Dublin in 1931. During the mid 90's, the Irish government also began a campaign to promote tourism in Ireland on March 17th.
While many Catholics still quietly celebrate this day of religious observance by going to mass, St. Patrick's Day slowly evolved to become a celebration of Irish heritage. Through the years, along with legendary shamrocks, many symbols were included in festivities that are reflective of Ireland's folklore, culture, and national identity (think leprechauns, ethnic cuisine, and wearing green).Other places that join in on this celebration include Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, and Canada, along with many cities across the United States.
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- Green food coloring
- Measure the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Stir well and set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer for about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, mixing well after each addition. The dough should be stiff.
- Add several drops of green food coloring. Knead the dough until the color is evenly distributed. (Make sure children wash their hands immediately after kneading--food coloring can be messy.)
- Gather the dough into two balls, flatten into disks beginning at the edge of the dough and working toward the center. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- After the dough has chilled, place one half on a large piece of plastic wrap, cover with another piece of plastic wrap and then roll until it is 1/4-inch thick. Lift off the top sheet of plastic wrap and cut out shamrocks, beginning at the edge of the dough and working toward the center.
- Place each shamrock on an ungreased baking sheet. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes or until the edges begin to lightly brown. Remove to a rack to cool. For particularly festive shamrocks, decorate them with green candies or frosting.
Makes about 34.
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