- Holidays and Celebrations»
- UK Holidays
Saint Patrick's Day: Make Your Own Green Beer, History, Shamrocks, Leprechauns and More
St. Patrick was not born in Ireland, but was originally from Britain. He died in the 5th century, after which the Catholic Church canonized him a saint. March 17th commemorates his death as a feast day all around the world.
When Patrick was 16, some Irishmen kidnapped and sold him into slavery. Six years later, he escaped his captors, ending up in France before he finally returned to Britain. He wanted to return to Ireland to spread the message of his Christian faith. After nearly 15 years of study, he again found himself in Ireland where he remained for the next 30 years.
Many say that Patrick rid Ireland of all its snakes, throwing them into the sea. This inaccurate tale may have been a metaphorical reference to the fact that Christianity eventually squelched other religions in the region.
The First St. Patrick’s Day Parade
You would think that since St. Patrick is associated with Ireland, that this is where the first parade took place. It actually happened in the US colonies on St. Patrick’s Day in 1762.
Irish soldiers marched in formation through New York City while serving in the English army. This event marked a rise in Irish pride and even today, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of the largest in the United States. The parade has over 150,000 participants and attracts millions of spectators to the streets of New York City each year.
Other St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
Every St. Patrick’s Day, the city of Chicago dyes the Chicago River green. This tradition started in 1962 when city union workers used 100 pounds of vegetable dye to color the river. The river stayed green for a week! Today, in the interests of being more environmentally friendly, workers only use 40 pounds of dye and the river only stays green for a few hours.
The Irish used to consider wearing green a sign of bad luck. According to Irish folklore, fairies preferred the color green and would kidnap people who wore too much of it. However, people all over the world now wear green on St. Patrick’s Day to avoid getting “pinched”.
Irish pride continues to grow. As of 2006, nearly 34 million people of Irish ancestry lived in the United States, a figure that is roughly ten times the population of Ireland.
Interestingly, about 4.8 million people have immigrated to the US from Ireland since 1820. Only the UK, Mexico, Germany and Italy have sent more immigrants to the US since then.
Other Symbols of St. Patrick’s Day
Shamrock – wearing green shamrocks is almost like a uniform on St. Patrick’s Day. It was originally a symbol of rebirth. However, when the English began taking over Irish land and imposing Catholic doctrine, the Irish used the shamrock as a symbol of their Irish pride and to express their discontent with English rule.
Leprechaun – these little guys never used to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day. It wasn’t until Walt Disney made the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People did Americans begin to associate leprechauns with the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day. Then idea caught on and leprechauns have become a quintessential symbol of this holiday. In Irish folklore, they were magical little people that could use their powers for good or evil and used it to protect their legendary treasure.
Make Your Own St. Patrick's Day Green BeerClick thumbnail to view full-size
Celebrating with Beer
Drinking beer at an Irish pub is almost synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day.
Until about 40 years ago, Ireland mandated that all pubs be closed in observance of this religious holiday. But then, the Irish government relented and realized that opening the pubs and allowing for celebrations to take place could be a boon to its tourism industry. Now, not only are the pubs open for business, but they also have fireworks, parades, and music concerts to boot.
The popular beer, Guinness, sells millions of pints around the world on St. Patrick’s Day. Arthur Guinness brewed his first batch of the drink in Dublin, Ireland in 1759.
The US, however, leads the world in celebrations at Irish pubs. The US boasts 1,672 of them around the country; no other country comes close. Ireland has just over half that many at 852 pubs.
Many people enjoy green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not difficult to make.
Make Your Own Green Beer
What you’ll need:
- 2 bottles of beer (to start with, anyway) – a lighter beer works better for showing color, but any beer will do. In the pictures at right, I used Fat Tire.
- Green food coloring
- Two chilled glasses
1. Take the chilled glasses and put about 6 drops of food coloring in each.
2. Pour in beer slowly.
Have You Ever Wondered How an Irishman Might Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?
Watch the video below to see the funny antics of this Irishman and what he does on St. Patrick's Day. It's definitely not quite what people in the United States do, but interesting nonetheless.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun