November 25, 2012 6:51 pm

Have you ever worn something green on Saint Patrick’s Day? Saint Patrick’s Day is a holiday in Ireland that is celebrated in March with parades and parties. Saint Patrick was a missionary in the 400s who brought Christianity to the Irish people.
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many countries by people whose ancestors came from Ireland. Many Irish people left Ireland in the mid-1800s because of a shortage of food. They took their Irish traditions with them. Today, millions of people in the United States are Irish Americans. They hold Saint Patrick’s Day parades in many cities.
Facts About Ireland
Official language
Irish, English
4,160,000 people
Rank among countries in population
Major cities
Dublin, Cork, Galway
27,100 square miles
70,300 square kilometers
Rank among countries in area
Highest point
3,415 feet/1,041 meters
Ireland is sometimes called the Emerald Isle because it is so green. The island has wide green plains and rolling green hills. Cool weather and lots of rain help keep the island green. Summers in Ireland are not very hot and winters are not very cold.
Ireland is one of the two main islands in the British Isles off the northwest coast of Europe. The island is divided between two countries. The northern part is a province of the United Kingdom called Northern Ireland. Most of the island is the country called Ireland.
The Irish are famous for their imagination, which shows up in their myths, legends, and writing. Have you ever heard of the “luck of the Irish?” This saying comes from a legend about little elves called leprechauns. Leprechauns will supposedly give their hidden treasure to anyone who is lucky enough to catch them.
A famous legend about St. Patrick tells how he drove all the snakes into the sea. That, so the story goes, is why there are no snakes in Ireland.
The great Irish writer and poet William Butler Yeats collected Irish folk stories in his book Irish Folk and Fairy Tales. The book contains stories about fairies, nymphs, and a female spirit called the banshee.
One of the most famous castles in Ireland, Blarney Castle, has a supposedly magical stone in one of its towers. According to legend, anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone receives the gift of clever speech.
The Irish people have long been noted for their music and dance. Irish dances, such as the jig, have become hits in such shows as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. The Irish are also famous for rock and pop music. The groups U2, Hot House Flowers, the Cranberries, Sinéad O’Connor, and the Corrs all come from Ireland.
People have lived in Ireland for more than 10,000 years. Irish folklore tells of ancient tribes. A people called the Celts invaded Ireland around 350 bc and conquered the tribes. You can still see stone ruins left by these ancient people.
In the 1100s, nobles from the neighboring island of Britain began moving into Ireland and building castles. By the 1700s, Ireland was ruled by Britain.
Most of the people in the central and southern parts of Ireland were Roman Catholic. Beginning in the 1800s, Irish Catholics began calling for “home rule.” They disliked harsh British rule and wanted to govern themselves. The people in the north were mostly Protestants. They wanted to be governed by Britain.
Fighting broke out between the British and the Irish and between Protestants and Catholics. The fighting went on for many years. The Irish people called the fighting “the troubles.”
Finally, Ireland was divided into two parts. The Irish Free State was set up in the south. It later became the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland remained under the rule of Great Britain. Fighting continued in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. A peace agreement was signed in the late 1990s. The Irish people hope the troubles are over.
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