There’s a popular saying that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Huh? How can that be? I believe there is an element of truth to this because so many people celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, regardless of their ethnic heritage. Many of the day’s customs have evolved into mainstream rituals. Let’s take a look at the roots of a few of the traditional practices associated with St. Patrick’s Day.
Although historically a religious holiday in Ireland, Timothy Meagher, a history professor at Catholic University in D.C., contends that Americans turned it into a celebration. The first parade was in New York City in 1762 and popularity grew as this became a way for Irish-Americans to demonstrate their heritage. The day was also commemorated with banquets at society clubs.
Wearing, Drinking and Going Green
Did you know the blue was originally the official color of St. Patrick’s Day? Eventually green gained dominance. Ireland is known as The Emerald Isle, after all. There is also the green shamrock, a symbol used by St. Patrick, the holiday’s namesake, to represent the Holy Trinity. Green is now reflected in the clothing worn on March 17, the beer and food consumed, and even the waters of the Chicago River.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
This is another example of how St. Patrick’s Day has gone mainstream. Many consider corned beef and cabbage a traditional meal, but not so for the Irish. The likely inspiration for this Americanized meal is that cabbage and corned beef were cheap commodities 19th century Irish-Americans could afford.
What is your favorite St. Paddy’s Day tradition? However you celebrate, I leave you with this Irish blessing:
Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire!