By Laura Rahill

May the luck of the Irish be with you — particularly this coming March 17, when the world will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, more commonly known to the Irish as St. Paddy’s Day. (Not “St. Patty’s Day,” as it is often mistakenly called in the United States).

St. Patrick’s Day is the one national holiday that is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other. St. Patrick’s Day is a reason for everyone to harness any Irishness in them and proudly recognize this heritage. Of course, this day is not only a day to confirm and commemorate an Irish identity, but to honor the man behind the date: St. Patrick, one of Ireland’s patron saints.

So who is the man behind the green beer and memorabilia? The story of St. Patrick is shrouded in myth and legend. St. Patrick was born in Britain in or around 390. At 16 he was taken to Ireland as a slave, where he tended sheep in the mountainous Irish countryside.

Six years later, St. Patrick fled back to Britain but later in life returned to Ireland as a missionary. It is said that he was a prominent figure in converting the Irish people to Christianity. The legend goes that St. Patrick also drove all the snakes out of Ireland.

But considering the damp climate and icy waters, Ireland probably never had any and the snakes are more likely a metaphor for pagans. It is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaf clover, to teach the Holy Trinity: three leaves representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Not only is the shamrock now a symbol of the Catholic Holy Trinity, but it has become a registered trademark of the Republic of Ireland. Today, people wear the shamrock on their breast on St. Patrick’s Day in honor of the saint and the Emerald Isle.

For more than 250 years, in the world’s biggest of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, people have marched up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. This year will be no different with an approximate turnout of 2 million spectators, including many people wearing green from Queens.

The Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be marching in the parade March 17. He will also visit Boston and Washington, D.C., where he will present President Barack Obama with the bowl of shamrocks, as is tradition for the Irish taoiseach and American president on this important day.

In fact, only one Irish senior government minister will remain in Ireland on this day, as 28 Irish government ministers will travel all over the world to celebrate this day with the many pockets of Irish people living in every corner of the globe.

St. Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate the one thing we possibly all share: a sense of Irishness and Irish heritage.

As an “off-the-boat” Irish girl myself, let me share with you some Irish sayings that you can use to impress on the day:

• Dia duit! (pronounced “djiah gwich”): Hello!

• Sláinte! (pronounced “sloyn-cheh”): Cheers!

• Lá fhéile Pádraig sona duit! (pronounced “law ale-yeh Pawd-rig sunna ditch”): Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

• Ádh na nÉireannach. (pronounced “awe nah nay-ron-okh”): luck of the Irish.

• Pionta Guinness, le do thoil. (pronounced “pyun-tah Guinness, leh duh huh-il”): A pint of Guinness, please.

Finally, since it is not uncommon for people to go to an Irish pub after the parade:

• Cá mbeidh tú ag fliuchadh na seamrÏŒige? (pronounced “caw meg too egg flyuh-ka nah sham-roh-ih-geh”): Where will you be wetting the shamrock? (“Wetting the shamrock” means “going for a drink.”)

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