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Saint Patrick's Day - Dispelling the Myths

Updated on March 16, 2013

© Copyright 2012 Tracy Lynn Conway with all rights reserved.

St. Patrick's Day Parade, Delray Beach, Florida 2008
St. Patrick's Day Parade, Delray Beach, Florida 2008

I met my Irish husband years ago while backpacking across Europe after college. We live in the U.S. now and every year we attend a St. Patrick's Day parade mostly to keep our children connected with their Irish heritage. We have been to parades in New York City, Connecticut and Florida. Every year that we go, my husband laughs at all the ways American's celebrate this holiday which have nothing to do with Ireland. I decided to debunk these myths and replace them with some true Irish traditions and culture.

1. Irish people eat corned beef and cabbage.

Irish people don't eat corned beef and cabbage. They don't eat it on St. Patrick's Day or any other day. The do eat cabbage quite a bit but usually with ham. The corned beef and cabbage evolved as an cheap Irish American meal when immigrants living in NYC searched for a substitute meat to cook with their beloved cabbage.

2. Irish soda bread is a sweet white round bread made with raisins

The Irish Soda bread most often eaten in Ireland is a brown grainy bread, not a white bread with raisins that is sold in American Stores for St. Patrick's Day. The white raisin loaf might be served for holidays but it is not common. (find recipe here)

Wool flat caps are not a current Irish Fashion
Wool flat caps are not a current Irish Fashion | Source

3. Irish men wear plaid caps and cable knit sweaters

The Image that American's have of Irish men wearing plaid caps and cable knit sweaters is a myth, only tourists wear these and stand out as tourists when doing so. Irish men and women keep up with European fashion trends.

4. Gaelic is widely spoken in Ireland

Gaelic, the original language of the Irish people, is only spoken by 2% of the Irish population in remote areas such as the Aran Islands. This is due to English control of the country for so many years. Although the language is still taught in schools as a second language, English is the lanaguage used day to day.

St. Patrick's Day Parade, Hartford, CT 2010
St. Patrick's Day Parade, Hartford, CT 2010

5. Kilts have a connection to Ireland

Kilts are not Irish, they are Scottish and historically the enemy of the Irish. Although men in kilts march in St. Patrick's day in parades the tradition is from Scotland not Ireland.

Listen to the haunting and captivating sound of the uilleann pipes.

6. Bagpipes that are used in St. Patrick's Day parades are of Irish origin.

The bag pipes used in St. Patrick's Day parades are Scottish. While they sound lovely in St. Patrick's day parades, they are not native to Ireland. A similar instrument called uilleann pipes however is native to Ireland.

7. Irish people in Ireland like to drink beer on St. Patrick's Day

Beer and St. Patrick's day is an American tradition but in Ireland the tradition is to visit church and honor Saint Patrick the Patron Saint of Ireland.

8. Irish people drink warm Guiniess

Irish people drink their beer cold. It is the Brittish that like their beer warm and call it 'bitter'.

9. Saint Patrick's Day is a big celebratory day

While St. Patrick's day is a public holiday in Ireland with schools and businesses closed, it is not the over the top getting drunk and dying you hair green kind of day that is can be in 'the States'.

10. "Top of the Morning" is a common greeting in Ireland.

Here is another perpetuated myth which Americans use to greet their friends on St. Paddy's day.

Here are some common ways that people greet one another on the Emerald Isle:

  • How you keepin?
  • How's the goin?
  • How a you?
  • How's she cuttin?

Tracy's Authentic Irish Soda Bread (Wheaten Bread)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Line bottom of pot with parchment paperMark an  'X' on top before baking
Line bottom of pot with parchment paper
Line bottom of pot with parchment paper
Mark an  'X' on top before baking
Mark an 'X' on top before baking

Tracy's Authentic Irish Soda Bread

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

  • 2 1/2 cups white flour

  • 1/3 cup rolled oats

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk

  • Soup pot with lid (cooking the bread in a pot traps in the moisture and recreates the origional hearth cooking method.)

  • Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C). Line the bottom of the pot with parchment paper. In large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, white flour rolled oats, baking soda and salt. Gently mix in the milk until a soft dough is formed (If dry, add more milk or water). Knead until combined and form into a rounded flat loaf. Using a knife, mark the loaf with an 'X'. Place dough in the pot and cover with lid. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Leave the bread to cool with the lid on to keep the moisture in. Best served warm with cream cheese, butter or as a compliment to stew. Enjoy! (more about this recipe)

Now that I have dispelled some of the myths, here are some more authentic ways you can connect with the traditions of Ireland.

1. Enjoy Brown Irish Soda Bread. When I first visited Ireland many years ago this was the bread that I couldn't get enough of. It was baked fresh daily and was available everywhere. It is a round shaped heavy bread and was sliced in wedges and then topped with butter or cream cheese. Okay, so you might not be able to locate this bread in American stores, as I have not, so here is my recipe (right) so you can make your own.

2. Have a cup of Irish black tea (cup-o-tay). My husband feels very passionate about making a proper cup of tea. He drinks Lyons tea which is available at most supermarkets here in the U.S. When heating the water make sure it comes to a complete boil before you pour it over the tea bag. Also do not wash out the tea kettle with soap as this will negatively effect the taste of the tea.

3. Have a chilled pint of Guiness with a half measure of Irish Wiskey on this side. This is the traditional way to enjoy your stout. Traditionally ladies would drink a half pint.

4. Go to Church. Many Irish people go to church on St. Patrick's Day to commemorate the Saint who was reponsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland. A small town parade would be followed by a visit to the local pub for a drink or two.

Whichever traditions you choose to follow, may the luck of the Irish be with you.

Erin go Braugh (Ireland forever).

More huanting uilleann music


Submit a Comment
  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    7 years ago from Virginia, USA

    Molly, It has been my pleasure! I hope your wish comes true and you get to experience the magical emerald isle for yourself.

    Sláinte! (cheers)


  • mollymeadows profile image

    Mary Strain 

    7 years ago from The Shire

    Thanks for debunking the myths, Tracy Lynn! Ireland is a gorgeous country and I hope to see it for myself one day. Enjoyed your hub!

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    8 years ago from Virginia, USA

    Jei B3 - I have also tried to explain to some family members that "Celtic" is pronounced with a hard C when spoken Ireland, but gave up not long after; I can certainly relate to your frustration. Thanks for the comment!

    Best, Tracy

  • profile image

    Jei B3 

    8 years ago from Mesquite, Texas

    I pronounce "Celtic" w/ the hard c as it is intended, and it NEVER fails that someone tries to correct me. I'm going to direct them to your hub from now on.

  • vissitor profile image


    8 years ago from Sonoma Valley, California

    Pixie? Isn't that Gaelic for Troll?

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    8 years ago from Virginia, USA


    A great deal of the information for this article was provided by my Irish husband and the rest came from my numerous long stays with his family, primarily in County Clare, with a good amount of travel to other Counties as well . My article states that the brown bread is in fact the traditional version of soda bread - not the sweet one. The recipe that I have posted above comes from a few traditional recipes that I tried with my own minor adaptations. One adaptation that I made is to use whole milk in place of buttermilk, I have found the buttermilk doesn't enhance the taste and it is easier to just use the whole milk that I already have in the fridge rather than buy or make the buttermilk. My husband was actually a bartender in Ireland for many years and I would think he knows a good deal about what people drink, so maybe you just have had a different experience. I have only ever eaten bacon (ham) and cabbage in Ireland as has my husband and his family and friends. Thank you for your comment and question.



  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I do not think you know us Irish that well. Traditional Soda bread is not sweet and your recipe is not a traditional one. It is made with using flour, salt, bread soda and buttermilk and never served with soft cheese (not irish). English people drink ale with is served warm while the Irish drink stout. Cornbeef and cabbage is traditional as it was a cheaper meat than bacon to eat, but over the last few decade the Irish have changed to bacon and cabbage.

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    9 years ago from Virginia, USA

    I hope you try and enjoy the soda bread and maybe share some with your friends that celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Thank you so much for the great comment and vote!

  • Jools99 profile image

    Jools Hogg 

    9 years ago from North-East UK

    Really enjoyed this hub and thanks for the soda bread recipe which I will certainly try. I don't celebrate St Patrick's but have worked with colleagues who celebrate it every year, even taking a day off work so they can have a few pints of the black stuff. Voted up.

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    9 years ago from Virginia, USA

    ktrapp, I think it is amazing how quickly traditions can be lost between generations and in the case of some of these Irish myths, completely changed. My husband actually started me on baking bread and I have mastered a few types of breads. I was really determined to get this one right, it took a lot of attempts and tweaking. Your Irish ancestors will be proud of your love of a good "cup-o-tay" as it is said in Ireland.

    Archgirl1985, your story sounds familiar, I had a similar experience after returning from Ireland for the first time and trying to convince my family that the 'c' in celtic is pronounced with a hard 'c' in Ireland. They only knew of the Boston Celtics which Americans pronounce with a soft 'c'. They still don't believe me. I love the idea of you getting a little proof to support your knowledge. Thanks for your comment and good luck with grad school in Eire.

    Jponiato, how did I know that you wouldn't be suckered into believing that green beer was truly Irish? I am so glad you liked the hub! Thank you!

  • jponiato profile image

    Joe Poniatowskis 

    9 years ago from Mid-Michigan

    Great hub, and very timely. I do enjoy a green beer or two, but recognize that as an American tradition, not really Irish. Thanks for helping to set the record straight.

  • archgirl1985 profile image


    9 years ago from Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

    While I love the festivities here in the states at St. Patricks Day. But Thank you for writing this. I made my family read this, cause they didn't believe me when I told them that its different. :-) I spent some time there and am looking at grad school there. I do enjoy Irish Soda Bread.

  • ktrapp profile image

    Kristin Trapp 

    9 years ago from Illinois

    Tracy - This was really interesting. Both my grandmothers are Irish (Kelly and Burns) but I was unaware of some of the ways the Irish celebrate Saint Patrick's day. It's wonderful that you've learned to make Irish soda bread. Your husband must appreciate it. As for myself, I enjoy a cup of black tea every morning.

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    9 years ago from Virginia, USA

    Itakins, you are right, Irish Soda Bread or Wheaten Bread, is like none other and has to be tasted. I have to say that a lot of research and trial and error went into making this recipe work. The use of the pot makes a huge difference. I haven't been back to Ireland since perfecting my recipe but I am I am dying to taste the original once more. I didn't know that the white version is more common in the North, that is interesting. I am so glad you like the hub and I will not attempt to say anything to you in Gaelic but I am impressed that you can.



  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    9 years ago from Virginia, USA

    Arlene, I will give you a pass as long as you are having fun, no green shirt required.

  • profile image

    Arlene V. Poma 

    9 years ago

    Yes, Tracy. With your writing, I am encourage to leave my mud for a cup-o-tea on St. Paddy's Day. Does this mean I off the hook each year when it comes to corned beef and cabbage? Hahahaha.

  • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

    Tracy Lynn Conway 

    9 years ago from Virginia, USA

    Arlene, are you saying that you haven't even tasted a green bagel? This is one of my memories growing up in NYC and eating green bagels on St. Patrick's Day. The Irish Soda Bread recipe might get it's own hub soon, but for now it is piggybacking here. Thanks for all the votes up and maybe this year you will get out of the mud and more in the spirit by having at least a cup-o-tay on St. Paddy's day.



  • itakins profile image


    9 years ago from Irl

    Go raibh maith agat! You got it in one .There are a few native Irish breads including your recipe ,which has to be tasted to be believed bread on earth like Irish bread.There is a soda bread called soda farrell which is usually griddle cooked and eaten with the traditional fry up.various counties can have different names for the same bread-I would call the bread above wheaten bread .We do actually have a soda bread which is white and may or may not have raisins,more common in the north of Ireland .Great hub and thank you for dispelling some myths.

    Slán leat

    Great choice of music.

  • profile image

    Arlene V. Poma 

    9 years ago

    Thanks for busting some myths and throwing in a recipe (surprise!). I don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day, I don't go to the parade or celebrate with drinking because I don't drink. Yes, I am such a stick-in-the-mud. Voted up and everything else. The music with the video put me to sleep. I should get out more often and get a life.


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