If you're anything like I was when drinking, you celebrate your right to binge drink on every holiday, or you make up your own to get in more drinking. That leads us to today's wonderful holiday - St. Patrick's Day. It's like this holiday was made for drinking. It's what it's all about right? Everywhere you look it's green beer, bar crawls, Irish car bombs, etc. Marketing has gone crazy around this holiday with green clothes, Hallmark cards, and bar promotions. How did this happen? And what's St. Patrick's Day REALLY about?
The History of St. Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and is the patron saint of Ireland. He brought Christianity to Ireland and was believed to die on March 17, 461. After his death, his beliefs and mythology became ingrained in the Irish culture. One of his most well known stories is his explanation of the Holy Trinity. Using the three leaves of an Irish shamrock, he explained the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since approximately the 10th century, Irish people have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day known as St. Patrick's Day every March 17.
The first parade to celebrate St. Patrick's Day was actually held in the United States, not Ireland. In New York City, on March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers who fought for the English army marched with their countrymen, along with their music to reconnect them to their Irish roots.
Over the next many years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants skyrocketed and St. Patrick's Day celebrations became a more common and established way for Irish Americans to connect and celebrate their heritage in the U.S. After the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, the U.S. was flooded with Irish immigrants and many of them faced racial prejudice and stereotypes because of their accents and unusual religious beliefs (similar to Mexicans today!) After Irish Americans banded together and became a great voting force known as the "Green Machine," they became more respected by politicians and citizens alike.
Drinking on St. Patrick's Day
According to DrunkenHistory.com, when staying at an inn, St. Patrick was given a cup of whiskey that was considerably less than full. He used this as an opportunity 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 and cheat people of their drink.
The only way the inn keeper could get rid of the devil, and redeem himself, was to fill each cup until it was overflowing. When Saint Patrick returned he had found the inn keeper learned generosity and filled each cup up full. Patrick declared the devil banished, and it became custom to drink a “full measure” to mark the occasion. This custom became known as Pota Phadraig or Patrick's Pot.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day was seen as a religious occasion. Many Catholics would attend mass. Until the 1970's pubs were closed on March 17. In 1995, the Irish government used global interest in St. Patrick's Day to drive tourism and the St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin was born complete with booze, parades, concerts, and fireworks.
The biggest celebrations of this holiday take place in the U.S. and that is where it became a drinking holiday. Nowadays, it is common for everyone to celebrate St. Patrick's Day whether they're of Irish decent or not, and surely if you're an alcoholic. As is the case with many American things, we've taken the holiday to the extreme, mainly with the marketing of booze. This isn't the only holiday that has been turned into a drinking day; there is..Thanksgiving Eve, Cinco de Mayo, and 4th of July among others.
St. Patrick's Day Sober
This year is my first St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. in 5 years and my 2nd sober. This past weekend I was able to celebrate with my family, talk about our Irish heritage, and enjoy a home cooked corn beef and cabbage meal made by my mom. I really wanted to get to the roots of this holiday that was unfortunately hijacked by bars and businesses here in the U.S. If I've learned one thing, it's that you don't have to be on a bar crawl or slamming down Irish car bombs to prove you're Irish. There's nothing attractive or intelligent about drinking holidays. The other part of this holiday that I've come to understand and love, is that it was one of the first ways immigrants were able to represent their heritage with pride and overcome discrimination. A helpful reminder that we are all connected by this label "Americans" because this country is a nation of immigrants.
So today, don't get upset you're not drinking. You're not missing out, I promise you that. You should be grateful you aren't out embarrassing yourself, blacking out, and creating a huge hangover like thousands of people will be doing today. Instead celebrate by wearing your green and orange pridefully and saying "Kiss me, I'm Sober!"