Here in the United States St. Patrick’s Day brings to mind green, shamrocks, leprechauns, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, green food and drinks, a parade, a green river, etc. It doesn’t typically recall the story of St. Patrick or the religious aspects of March 17.
In fact, St. Patrick’s Day became even more popular when, in 1995, the Irish government began a national campaign to showcase Ireland, using St. Patrick’s Day to help. Since St. Patrick’s Day is a religious day in Ireland, pubs were closed on March 17 until the 1970s, which is probably contrary to popular belief. [Source: History.com]
Yes, St. Patrick’s Day is mostly a secular, fun, green holiday for us Americans; however, it couldn’t hurt to understand the traditions associated with the holiday. Check our History.com’s The History of St. Patrick’s Day page for information about St. Patrick, the traditions, symbols, religious origins, etc.
For instance [from History.com], why do we eat corned beef and cabbage? This is not a traditionally Irish dish. Instead, it originated at the turn of the 20th century when Irish immigrants living in New York City could not afford their traditional Irish bacon, so they replaced it with the cheaper corned beef. If you are Irish, did you know that Irish immigrants were members of the Protestant middle class in America until the mid 19th century? Then, when the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland, millions of Catholics fled, now poor and uneducated and starving, and the Protestants began to reject the Irish Catholic, denying them jobs and creating negative images – hence the infamous, “No Irish Need Apply”. The New York City parade began in 1848 and over time became a source of pride for Irish citizens. However, it wasn’t until 1948 that a president, President Truman, attended the parade to show support for those Irish-Americans who had faced prejudice for so long.
You can read more interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day on History.com. And while you’re celebrating the luck o’ the Irish today, religiously or secularly, remember that the Irish have come a long way. Make a toast to your neighbor and enjoy.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. My favorite Irish blessing for you:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.