Lotsa Matzah and Shamrocks Galore! St. Patrick's Day (March 17)
Around 385 AD, St. Patrick, then 16, was kidnapped into slavery by Irish pirates. During his 6-year stint as a shepherd in Ireland, he turned to religion to ease his loneliness and fear.
Guided by two momentous dreams, he escaped back to Britain and became a bishop after 12 years of religious study. Dream #2 urged him to return to Ireland to spread Christianity. A clever marketer, St. Patrick incorporated native pagan rituals into his Christian teachings to attract hordes of followers. By targeting and converting the powerful ruling class, the masses followed suit.
While dodging pagan priests who had it out for him, St. Patrick established monasteries, churches and schools across Ireland. Mission accomplished, he died on March 17, AD 461, now known as St. Patrick's Day.
So, where do shamrocks and leprechauns fit in? St. Patrick used the shamrock (three-leaf clover) for show-and-tell demonstrations of the Holy Trinity. The rare and lucky four-leaf clover has no religious significance apart from hope, faith, love and happiness. And leprechauns are a vestige of Celtic pagan lore -- these tiny, grouchy fellows mended fairies' shoes in exchange for gold coins to fill their coveted "pots o' gold."
Passover (March 29th - April 5th)
In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Ramses II started enslaving and oppressing the Jews for becoming too powerful. Moses, a Jewish shepherd, was chosen by God to tell the Pharaoh to knock it off -- or suffer 10 plagues (blood, frogs, lice/vermin, wild beasts/flies, blight/cattle disease, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and slaying of the first born.) The Pharaoh ignored Moses' plea, and the plagues started. When the Pharoah'd had his fill, he freed the Israelites, who grabbed their unrisen bread dough and vamoosed. While on the lam, they made hard, flat crackers (matzah) on an as-needed basis by cooking the dough in the hot desert sun.
Three days later, suffering from liberator's remorse, the Pharaoh issued a recall. When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they were trapped between the water and the Pharaoh's army. So, Moses parted the Red Sea to allow his people to pass. When the Red Sea resumed regular programming, the Pharaoh's army drowned.
The eight days of Passover commemorate this exodus from Egypt. "Passover" comes from God's instruction to the Israelites before the 10th plague to mark their homes with lamb's blood, so they'd be passed over during the slaying of first borns. The Passover Seder has special foods and customs that symbolize this story.