St. Patrick's Day, the American Way
Every year on March 17th, half of all Americans will don their green clothes or accessories, turn into an Irish citizen for one day, and partake in the St. Patrick's Day celebration. 33 million Americans claim Irish heritage, which is 7 times the entire population of Ireland. There is no other holiday we celebrate, here in the U.S., that honors heritage more than St. Patrick's Day, even though this holiday is a cartoonish version of the real thing. We like to ruin lots of things here in the U.S., Mexican food, sushi, compact cars, modern art...the list goes on, but that's for another day.
I won't bore you with all the details, but St. Patrick is credited to bringing Christianity to Ireland and March 17th is the day he died. That day falls directly in the middle of lent, a time where many Christians give up indulgences like eating sweets, meat, or drinking alcohol. However, the churches in Ireland, in observation of the patron St. Patrick, give a free pass for this day. So on this day, many Catholic Christians let loose during lent and drink the two biggest drinks in Ireland, beer and whiskey.
There is a story that says St. Patrick was given a cup of whiskey at an inn, that was not very full. He used this as a moment to teach generosity. He told the inn keeper there was a devil living in his cellar with the whiskey that caused him to become greedy. The only way the inn keeper could rid himself of the devil, and be redeemed, was to fill each cup to the top. When St. Patrick returned he found the inn keeper had, indeed, learned generosity and filled each cup with more than enough whiskey. St. Patrick proclaimed the devil had expelled, and it became customary to drink a “full measure” to celebrate the occasion. This became known as Pota Phadraig or Patrick's Pot.
The first parade for St. Patrick's Day was in the United States, and not Ireland. During the late 1700's Irish immigrants were very plentiful on U.S. soil. It wasn't until the mid 1800's that the potato famine hit Ireland and Irish immigrants began flooding the United States by the boat loads. With that surge in Irish immigration, many people with Irish roots found solace in coming together and having a big ole party with other Irishmen. They were still seen as minorities at this time because of their funny accents and weird customs. Slowly over time non Irish Americans saw how much fun the Irish were having and decided to join in, paving way for future Irish immigrants to be more welcomed in this country. Over many years and lots of television marketing, St. Patrick's Day has grown into a beloved American holiday, even if you have no Irish roots. Grab your best green shirt, your favorite dark beer, best Irish whiskey, and head over to your local pub on March 17th.
“Here's to women's kisses,
and to whiskey, amber clear;
not as sweet as a woman's kiss,
but a darn sight more sincere.”