A Bit O’ Tradition: 4 Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Like the Irish

Posted by: Cathy Eng in Tips

As Americans, we love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with green beer, wacky shamrock sunglasses, corned beef and festooned parades. But if you are one of the 33.3 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry (or you’re just curious), why not spend this St. Patrick’s Day in a more traditional Irish way? Here are four ways to spend your St. Patty’s Day in the way of the Irish of yesteryear:

 1. Skip the parades and hullabaloo.  For centuries, the Irish honored the patron saint of Ireland St. Patrick by observing March 17 as a holy day with a feast. This included attending mass and gathering for a large family meal. In fact, until the 1970s, many of Ireland’s pubs were closed on St. Patrick’s Day in observance of St. Patrick, who died on March 17, AD 461.

It wasn’t until Americans transformed the holiday in the 18th century that parades, festivals and river dying became a popular way for Irish Americans to celebrate their heritage (fun fact: the first ever St. Patty’s Day parade took place in 1762 in New York City). Today, St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivities take place all over the world—including Ireland—but if you want to celebrate like your Irish ancestors, just spent the day with your family and enjoy a good meal.

 2. Take a pass on the corned beef and cabbage. Contrary to popular belief, corned beef and cabbage is not the official dish of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. In fact, the dish is primarily a tradition only here in the U.S. and is consumed by more tourists in Ireland than locals.

So what is Ireland’s official St. Patrick’s Day culinary delight? There isn’t one. Throughout history, Ireland’s dinner tables more likely featured leg of lamb, roast chicken, shepherd’s pie or boiled ham and cabbage. There are hundreds of traditional Irish recipes online; here are just a few:

 3. Tone down the green. Known as “wearing of the green,” Americans enjoy wearing the color to celebrate Irish culture and heritage. This is one of the more fun holiday traditions since wearing green supposedly made you invisible to leprechauns, who would pinch anyone they could see (anyone not wearing green that is).

Traditionally, however, the only green that the Irish donned on St. Patrick’s Day was on the cluster of three-leafed shamrocks they wore pinned to their lapels to symbolize the teaching of the holy trinity by St. Patrick. In fact, St. Patrick did not wear green at all; his vestments were actually blue, a color that was commonly used on flags and Irish coats-of-arms.

4. Drink your beer brown, as in Guinness brown. Even though St. Patrick’s Day was originally a dry holiday, it is hard to imagine celebrating it without a pint. Americans love to enjoy their pints filled with ice-cold green beer. However, you won’t find much green beer in Irish pubs.

What you will find is Guinness, the famous Irish stout— and lots of it. In fact, on a given day 5.5 million pints of Guinness are consumed around the world; on St. Patrick’s Day, 13 million pints are served up. Here is a quick tutorial on how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness.

The great thing about traditions is the fun in choosing your own. Whether you hit the parades route in head-to-toe green, or spend the day eating lamb stew with your family, have a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day! May the road rise up to meet you.


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