The Legends and Lore of St. Patrick’s Day: And don’t forget the Corned Beef and Cabbage
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, and, although I’m mainly British and Irish, all I’ve ever known about this Irish holiday is that if you don’t wear green, you get pinched really hard. Folks like to drink a lot of beer, wear hats, and paint their faces on this holiday. They also like to eat, so don’t forget that corned beef and cabbage is the meal to munch.
So where did this holiday come from, and what’s the go-green fuss about anyway?
Well, it seems St. Patrick was actually born in Britain. His real name was Myron and at 16 years old, the poor teenager was kidnapped and hauled off to Ireland to tend a bunch of smelly sheep. He dutifully took care of his captor's wooly mutton for about six years before he had a dream or vision of how to escape. He finally made it back to Britain.
After another vision, he decided to become a priest and took the name Saint Patrick. Maybe he had seen a lot of ugly in Ireland, because he felt called by God to get back there and build schools and monasteries and spread the word of God.
Wow! Talk about facing your fears and paying it forward.
During the grueling middle ages, when fun was hard to come by, folks started closing up their businesses and celebrating good old “Myron”, aka St. Patrick. Legend argues that St. Patrick died on March 17, and therefore, that is why we go green on this particular date.
Why green? Well, the actual color of the Anglo-Irish order of Saint Patrick is blue. A sky blue. But it’s been told (who knows if it’s true … and does it really matter) that Leprechauns can’t see you if you’re wearing green. Supposedly, these Irish menaces are mean and like to pinch people … maybe only on St. Patrick’s Day.
And why the shamrock? Legend says, no, tradition, no, old wife's tales, no … Lore. That’s it, Lore says that St. Patrick would use the symbolism of the shamrock (3 leaves) to teach about the trinity. But this mystery is still under investigation–no word on when the confusion will be resolved.
The United States got in on the green holiday action around 1737 and threw a parade for Myron. New York has never enjoyed sitting in the back row of any event, so they joined in with a parade of their own about thirty years later. New York now has one of the biggest St. Paddy’s celebrations in the United States.
I couldn’t help wondering why this holiday is so big in the United States, but I found out. It seems that when the potato famine hit Europe, starving folks scattered; some came to the United States and brought their customs and traditions with them.
Traditionally, the Irish celebrated St. Paddy’s Day with boiled bacon and potatoes (I don’t know about this dish, but I’m up for trying it). Around 1899-1905—somewhere in there, the Irish enjoyed the corned beef served at Jewish delis and meal stands. It seems corned beef could be made by brining a cheap cut of beef and totally enjoyed. Legend says (or maybe history) that this shared cultural experience marked the start of corned beef on St. Paddy’s Day.
Once I learned about the whole boiled bacon tradition being traded for corned beef, I wondered where the beer drinking came in. I learned that St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, and for one day sacrifice is benched and drinking is allowed.
I guess it doesn’t matter if your Irish in America, lots of folks celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
I hope you enjoy this holiday on March 17th and eat some corned beef and cabbage.
Here’s a link to enjoy some fantastic St. Patrick’s Day recipes. And you don’t even have to be Irish to try them out.