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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


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