How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
Everybody Knows That
You are supposed to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. And drink green beer. And have corned beef and cabbage for supper. Maybe listen to your CD of Irish Folk Tunes. And you’re doing all of this to honor St. Patrick, the guy who drove the snakes out of Ireland, right? Well, let’s take a closer look.
Wearing of the Green
Actually, wearing green has more to do with Irish nationalism than it has to do with St. Patrick. There is more support for blue being the color of St. Patrick. In fact, The Order of St. Patrick adopted blue as its color in the late 1700’s. But I would recommend wearing green anyway, since there are far too many people willing to pinch you if you don’t (which in truth is more about leprechauns, not St. Patrick). Perhaps a nice blue-green combo?
Corned Beef and Cabbage
The Irish were actually more into pork and definitely potatoes. So how did we to get beef and cabbage? It’s mostly about economics, and the “melting pot” that was the United States. Corned beef was as close to Irish bacon as cash-strapped Irish immigrants could come. And cabbage was just less expensive than potatoes. Cheap and easy to cook, it’s easy to see how it became a new tradition.
What About Those Snakes?
It’s a great story, but probably not founded in fact. In all likelihood, snakes never existed in Ireland in the first place. It’s just too cold. But since snakes are traditionally associated with “evil,” driving the snakes out can been seen as metaphor for St. Patrick’s efforts to Christianize Ireland.
Please Tell Me I Can Still Drink Beer
Up until 1970, Irish pubs were closed for St. Patrick’s day, as it was considered a religious feast day. If you do decide to drink, I would skip the green food dye if I were you. Just drink your Guinness in its original color, and be happy that you are living in this century. But you should know that this tradition was imported from America back to Ireland.
And in case you gave up alcohol for Lent, you should know that even as a religious feast, the Lenten restriction on drinking alcohol is generally lifted. So raise your glass with a clean conscience. And don't limit yourself to beer. A nice glass of Irish Whiskey would be a good way to celebrate, too.
Ireland is deeply tied to its musical traditions, and St. Patrick’s Day is a great excuse to play those familiar Irish tunes. There’s even a St. Patrick's Jig. Or play the more famous Irish Washerwoman. But do it before you’ve had too much of that Guinness.
Go Ahead and Celebrate
I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here. Go ahead and celebrate. It’s a fun day, filled with lots of food, drink, and revelry. Just know that the day is more a celebration of Ireland and Irish nationalism, than of St. Patrick himself, who died on March 17, AD 461. After all, what could be more authentic than a traditional Irish Wake?