Saint Patrick’s Day: To Party or Not to Party?

Destiny Short

In the United States, Saint Patrick’s Day is a day for partying and consuming all green or “Irish” beverages and foods. If someone does not wear green, then they had better be prepared to be pinched until they do, but in Ireland there is no pinching ritual. In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is a Catholic holiday. The Irish stay with their families and go to church. As a matter of fact, until the 1970s, Irish laws ordered pubs to be closed on the holiday. Today in Ireland, there are parades and beer drinking, but it is only there for the tourists. If not for the tourism, it would still be a day of solemnity for the Irish. The history of the holiday starts with Saint Patrick himself, who is the patron saint of Ireland and lived there in the late fourth and fifth centuries. He was a Romano-Briton, who is someone from Britain when England was under the culture that developed there when Romans controlled the area. It is believed that he was captured by Irish raiders and brought to Ireland as a slave. He is celebrated for the missionary work that he did there and is credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland.

To Americans, especially the 36.5 million with Irish heritage, which is about nine times the population of Ireland itself, it means something different. When about a million poor Irish Catholics immigrated to the United States during the Great Potato Famine in the mid-1800s, they were despised for their religious beliefs. The first Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States were met with contempt. The immigrants soon realized that grouping in numbers gave them political power, so they organized into a force. Annual Saint Patrick’s Day parades, which began in New York City in March of 1762, were a demonstration of strength and solidarity among people who were mostly unwelcome in America.