By Billy Corriher
Adriane Studdard took time this week to teach her class at Hendrix Drive Elementary about St. Patrick's Day, telling her students about St. Patrick and his adopted homeland of Ireland. She taught her first-graders about the good luck associated with shamrocks and the legend of leprechauns.
But seven-year-old Bianca Usher may have realized the most important lesson of St. Patrick's Day.
"If you don't wear green, you might get pinched," she said.
Green is often associated with Ireland and is considered good luck on the day honoring St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century.
St. Patrick was born to a wealthy English family, but was abducted by Irish marauders in his teens, according to www.americancatholic.org. Patrick later returned to Ireland and preached Christianity to the island's inhabitants, the first non-Roman Christians.
When Irish immigrants came to America, they brought with them their culture and their admiration of St. Patrick.
Hampton resident Betty English honors her Irish ancestry by cooking traditional Irish meals for friends and family on the holiday commemorating St. Patrick's death.
English said she cooks beef or lamb shanks, an Irish potato stew and soda bread.
"I don't know if I'll be dyeing any beer green, but we'll be doing a lot of cooking," she said.
English said her grandparents were Irish immigrants, and St. Patrick's Day is a time when she honors her ancestors' struggles and triumphs.
"It makes me proud that I have the heritage of a people who, even though they've been oppressed for hundreds of years, still celebrate their culture," she said.
Carolyn Balog, a historian at the Stately Oaks historic home in Jonesboro, said many in the South have Irish ancestry, including "Gone with the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell, who based much of the book on her relatives' nearby home.
"Scarlett O'Hara is a fictional person, but she takes on Irish characteristics and customs," she said, pointing to O'Hara's fierce attachment to her family's land.
"The land is still very important to Southerners," she said. "And much of that is because historically, their ancestors had to fight so hard to keep it."