A Toast to St. Patrick
Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Who was that guy and why is it a major beer-drinking holiday celebrated with parades and shenanigans? Why do we wear green?
Well, we can look no further than the Irish, as St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day started as purely a Christian observance holiday, then was developed into a feast holiday, and today is celebrated by Irish descendants world-wide.
St. Patrick was born into a Roman-British family in the early 400’s AD with the birth name, Maewyn. He was given his Christian name of Patrick when he entered the priesthood later in life. He was captured by Irish raiders and taken into slavery at the age of 16. After six years he was able to escape and he fled to Gaul where he joined the Church and studied to be a priest. I suppose if one was held captive by the Irish for six years, one wouldn’t be too eager to return – however in 432 Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop and spent 30 years teaching God’s word. During that time, St. Patrick was successful in converting a large number of Irish citizens to Christianity. The Irish were certainly thankful for Patrick’s forgiveness of their sins; in return they dubbed him a saint and declared March 17th an official holiday in remembrance.
Originally St. Patrick was associated with the color blue, however over the years the transition has been to green, mainly due to the shamrock. The wearing of the shamrock is a Christian tradition. It is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a teaching example to explain the Holy Trinity – the father, son and Holy Spirit. Today, whether Irish or not, green is a customary color worn, along with shamrock pins, beaded necklaces and Leprechaun hats.
Starting in the 1600’s, March 17th became a day that Irish Christians could take a break from fasting during the 40 days of lent. They were allowed one day to feast and drink alcohol. Over the centuries, the day has evolved to include parades, pub events and outrageous green attire. In 1931 the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Dublin. Today New York City hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world. Chicago even goes so far to dye the Chicago River green.
Green Beer and Irish Stout
Green beer is a popular drink on St. Patrick’s Day, a way to truly show your spirit. Many bars and pubs offer a special green beer on their menu during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. Often just a drop or two of food coloring in a light colored lager is all you need to add to festive touch to your beverage, but beware of green teeth if you have one too many!
A good Irish stout is another widely consumed beverage on March 17th. Dublin-brewed Guinness is by far the most popular and well known choice. Guinness is a “dry Irish stout,” but other types of stouts to sample include imperial stouts, sweet milk stouts, oatmeal stouts and a close cousin to the stout, the porter. Domestic company Lagunitas out of California brews a mean Cappuccino Stout. An imperial style stout, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout boasts 9.2% abv with dark malts, roasted barley and local coffee thrown in the mix.
If you want to really get festive, ask your friendly bartender to whip up an Irish Car Bomb. Half a pint of Guinness and a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream mixed with Jamison Irish Whisky. Simply drop the shot in the pint glass and chug. They are dangerously delicious, so make sure to pace yourself!