St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day

Some choose to celebrate the holiday with reverence; others prefer things a little more rambunctious. One thing is certain though – when March 17th rolls around each year, much of the world gets a little happier and a whole lot greener, thanks to the centuries-old tradition of St. Patrick’s Day.

The day is a commemoration of Christianity arriving in Ireland in the 17th century via the beloved St. Patrick who made converting the Irish pagans his life’s work. Over the years, it has grown to represent Irish culture as a whole, marked by religious observance, parades, festivals and, because religious restrictions on alcohol are formally lifted for the day, drinking.

In the 1600s, green was chosen for the Irish flag and has remained the prominent color in the country ever since. This color choice is related to the Shamrock, a three-leaved clover that St. Patrick purportedly used to teach the Trinity to his potential converts.

As a result, St. Patrick’s Day is awash in a sea of emerald hues and you best pull out something green to wear lest you get pinched all day (the customary response to anyone not wearing the color). Donning a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” shirt affords one the best protection from the practice. The pinch is supposed to be a light and affectionate reminder, but kids don’t always remember that part. Many an unsuspecting child has arrived at school on March 17th, wearing not a hint of green, only to become a target for the next six grueling hours.

Besides “the wearing of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day, there are a number of other traditions associated with the holiday. In Ireland, the St. Patrick’s Day Festival takes place – a three day event celebrating Irish culture. Elsewhere, parades and other festivities are held in cities from Salem to San Diego, especially those with a large Irish population such as New York City, Boston and Chicago.

Americans have adopted corned beef and cabbage as the traditional meal of the day, served in household across the country and in countless eateries. They serve it to expectant tourists in Ireland, but don’t really associate the meat with the holiday. It was the Irish immigrants of the 18th century that embraced the inexpensive meat and made it part of their annual tradition.

Celebrators of the holiday also get their fair share of green food dye on the holiday. Many bars and Irish pubs dye their beer green for the holiday, and for the younger crowd, they can order a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s.

There are also green cookies, green cakes and just about any other food that can be altered with a few drops of green dye. And it isn’t limited to food. A number of cities dye their public fountains on this day. The Windy City goes as far as to tint the Chicago River and the White House has adopted the tradition as well, altering the fountain on the North Lawn to mark the day.

Although a religious holiday, St. Patrick’s Day has become secularized over the years, much to the ire of those who celebrate the day with solemn reverence. But it’s hard to blame everyone from wanting to get in on the annual festivities and become honorary Irish if but for a day, proudly wearing a shamrock and washing down their corned beef with an icy glass of emerald beer. What’s not to love about that?

If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we’d love to hear about your own stories and family traditions in our comments section below, as we tip our hat to all things Irish on this festive day.

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