Drago lounged in the grass under the tree in the park. His paws were behind his head as he blew smoke rings into the air.
Beside him, Kinsley sat cross-legged. She watched wide-eyed as the smoke donuts drifted up and faded into the tree. Her expression was full of wonder, as was often the case when children visited him.
When the last smoke ring faded into the tree, her attention returned to him. She came to ask a question, not watch smoke rings.
“Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?”
Drago sat up and leaned against the tree. “Come sit beside me and I’ll tell you.”
When she sat beside him and leaned against the tree, he sighed. “That’s right, get comfortable, because I must take you back a long way.”
He thought about it a moment before he began.
“The story begins in Scotland during the fifth century. Most people were fishers, farmers or merchants. Their clothing was made of wool or skins and some had wool draped over their shoulders – called a brat.” He leaned his head down and looked at her. “Are you there with me?”
She nodded. Her eyes looked like she was somewhere else, so he began the story.
“Maewyn Succat was born in Kilpatrick, Scotland. His father was a deacon in the Catholic church. He lived a normal life until he was sixteen. That was when he was captured by some Picts (Irish pirates) and became a slave. After that, he spent a lot of time alone, tending sheep in the Slemish Mountains of Ireland. Most of the time, he had no one to talk to but God, so he did a lot of praying.
At that time, most of Ireland practiced a pagan religion. The leaders were Druids. They were like doctors, lawyers, politicians and keepers of Irish lore, all wrapped up into one.
One night, an angel of the Lord came to young Maewyn in a dream. The angel told him that there would be a ship leaving Ireland and explained how he could get on it.
He traveled south and got on the ship. That was how he finally escaped.
Of course, his family was delighted to have him back. Maewyn felt a calling. He studied and became a priest. That was when he began calling himself Patrick. He kept thinking about the Irish people and hoped they would convert to the Catholic faith. He kept hearing their voices asking him to come back, so he asked to be sent back as a missionary.
He returned to Ireland as a priest and converted many to his faith. In fact, he was so successful that he influenced the change of Ireland to predominantly Catholic faith. He often used the clover leaf as a teaching aid to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. Each leaf was symbolic. One was The father, another The Son and the third was The Holy Spirit. To him, the clover leaf was a religious symbol.
Kinsley sat for a moment, thinking about what he had said. “Is a shamrock a clover? I thought it had four leaves.”
Drago searched the grass between them and plucked out a clover leaf. He held it out to her between thin bony fingers.
“The word shamrock comes from the Irish name seamrog, meaning clover. It normally only has three leaves, but only one out of every ten thousand has four. You can see why it would be considered lucky to find a four-leaf clover. Some claim that the four leaves represent faith, hope, love and luck.” He fumbled as he tucked the clover into her hair.
She touched the clover and looked up at him. “But what about leprechauns - the little people who wear green suits?”
“Well, that actually has nothing to do with St. Patrick or what he taught. It was part of folklore that started many years later. I’m not sure how it got mixed with St. Patrick’s Day. According to legend, leprechauns were supposed to be little men wearing red suits. They were fairy creatures who pinched anyone they saw. Since leprechauns aren’t supposed to see green, they can’t see you if you wear green.”
Kinsley frowned. “Then St. Patrick’s Day used to be a religious celebration?”
“Yes. My memory fails me sometimes, but that I remember. I think St. Patrick died on March 17, in the year 461 AD. He was never cantonized as a saint by the Pope, but sometimes they weren’t back in those days. Still, he was considered a saint by the people.”
A voice called from the park. “Kinsley, come on and stop bothering that old man. We need to get back to the house so we can decorate for the party.”
Kinsley stood and looked down at Drago. “I’ve got to go now.” She leaned down and kissed Drago on the cheek. “Thanks for the story. I’ll see you next Saturday?”
Drago sighed. “Thank you for listening to an old dragon. It makes my day brighter when children stop and talk to me.”
“I told Fergus that you know everything. He is always asking questions. I’m sure he’ll come see you, Mr. Dragon.”
“Thank you, Kinsley. Tell him not to wait too long. I am the last dragon and one day I will no longer be here to ask.”
Drago watched as Kinsley walked away. Only the young children saw him as a dragon. The older they got, the more they saw him as an old man. It was important to teach them while they were young. He was doing his part, like St. Patrick. That was all he could do. He hoped that the children would remember his words when they had children of their own - even if they forgot he was a dragon.