If you want to know the difference between cultures from ancient and modern times, all you have to do is look at the traditions that we create.
Holidays give us milestones and those annual observances really help us to develop traditions.
Halloween had origins that included harvest time, All Saints Day and even had some pagan roots. The harvest observance led to feasting and the use of food as decoration.
Jack-o-lanterns took on dual meanings with the harvest and also representing souls in purgatory. Some say costumes during these end-of-summer festivals were originally worn as a symbolic way to ward off evil spirits that were loosed for a brief period of time.
Of course, Americans adopted these rituals and turned them into a chance to enjoy acts of capitalism, gluttony and debauchery.
Retailers profit greatly from those who purchase garbage bags full of candy to share with children from the neighborhood.
Of course, others use Halloween as a chance to dress in inappropriate costumes and use alcohol or other substances as an excuse to do things we can only hope they wouldn't do at any other day of the year.
St. Patrick's Day has similarly pure origins and similarly questionable modern rituals attached to it.
St. Patrick is known for bringing the gospel to Ireland in the fifth century. There are many great stories about him.
He reportedly used the shamrock to teach the Irish people about the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one being in three parts according to Christian teaching. The shamrock's three leaves from one stem were used to illustrate this doctrine.
St. Patrick is also credited with banishing snakes from Ireland. I know a few people who need St. Patrick to help them with their yards and homes as the weather gets warm and some of the slithering critters come out of hibernation and look for somewhere warm to hide out for a while. Because of his impact on the country, Patrick is also expected to be the judge of the Irish when the day comes.
Somehow leprechauns became part of the tradition of St. Patrick's Day celebrations. For some reasons, these little creatures who are supposed to be the shoe makers for elves enjoy making mischief and putting gold coins in a pot at the end of a rainbow.
If you catch one, they can grant you wishes.
Those ancient traditions and stories don't even resemble modern celebrations. Until the 1970s, all pubs in Ireland were closed in honor of St. Patrick. In America, people start drinking green beer in bars before noon.
The one tradition that has survived to today is wearing of the color green.
Page 2 of 2 - According to folklore, leprechauns like to pinch people. No one is sure why. That's just how they are.
But for some reason, anything green works as leprechaun camouflage. So if you forget to wear green to make yourself invisible to leprechauns, people pinch you as a reminder.
So if you wear green, no one pinches you. But if you don't, everyone – including leprechauns – pinch you until your arms are bruised.
That seems about right.
Americans have a way of taking traditions to the lowest common denominator. Holidays meant to be religious remembrances are corrupted by the desire for profit and depravity.
So when you drink your green beer and party like a leprechaun who just finished a double shift at the elf shoe factory, just remember you are doing it in honor of a saint.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org