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"If you're lucky enough to be Irish ... You're lucky enough!" or so goes the old Irish toast, which is more commonly heard March 17, the day named for the patron saint of Ireland.

Before St. Patrick's Day became the international festival of Irish culture that it is today - known for parades, boisterous celebrations and a plethora of green and gold - it began as a religious feast day in honor of an early Christian missionary to Ireland.

Despite the popularity of the holiday, and with approximately 34.7 million U.S. residents claiming Irish ancestry, several myths still exist about the man behind the holiday.

St. Patrick wasn't Irish

St. Patrick was born to a wealthy Roman family living in Britain in the fourth century, according to history.com. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders as a teenager and after escaping from his captors, decided to return to Ireland as a missionary. He is said to have used shamrocks - three-leaf clovers - to explain the trinity.

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St. Patrick didn't drive

the snakes from Ireland

It's likely that there were never any snakes in Ireland, but it has been a common belief that St. Patrick drove all the serpents away. According to st-patricks-day.com, the saying may have been symbolic of putting an end to pagan practices.

St. Patrick's color was blue, not green

Knights in the Order of St. Patrick wore a color known as St. Patrick's blue. Green probably became associated with Ireland in the 18th century, when supporters of Irish independence used the color to represent their cause.

Around the region

For those in search of Irish culture, Sunday, March 16, the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg will present "Celtic Nights: The Emigrants Bridge" at 3 p.m. The show will feature Irish singers and step dancers performing traditional ballads and dances. Call 717-337-8200 for ticket availability.

In Baltimore, the big parade will begin at 2 p.m. at the Washington Monument and will end at the Inner Harbor.

Later this week, the Celtic rock group Barleyjuice will perform at Carroll Arts Center in Westminster. Although the Saturday show is already sold out, tickets may still be available for the group's Friday night performance, which begins at 8 p.m. March 21. Call 410-848-7272 for availability.

Later this month, from March 28 through 30, the Children's Theater Troupe at Carroll Arts Center will present "Once Upon a Leprechaun," a comic musical based on Irish folk tales.

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