4 Misconceptions About St. Patrick's Day (But You Can Still Drink Green Beer If You Want To)
With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, it's likely everyone around you is pulling out their green sweaters and leprechaun hats. March 17 is known for lots of celebrating and covering everything in green sequins in recognition of St. Patrick, who brought Catholicism to Ireland. I think people can celebrate St. Patrick's Day however they'd like (which is true for any holiday, in my opinion) but I do think it's important to point out there are some major misconceptions about St. Patrick's Day out there in the world.
Since I was a child, I've always celebrated St. Patrick's Day in some form. I'm originally from the Boston, Mass. area, which is home to the largest population of Irish Americans in the United States. Boston also hosts a massive St. Patrick's Day parade every year with family-friendly floats, bagpipes, and loads of food. There is also, as you may already know, tons and tons of beer. For me, whether you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a bunch of Irish-Americans (of which I am one myself, to be fair), or just a bunch of people who love to drink green beer, the most important thing is you're having fun with people you enjoy being around.
The nerd in me, though, wants to point out some frequent misconceptions about St. Patrick's Day, because a little historical accuracy never hurt anybody — and if your local bar is hosting St. Patrick's Day trivia, this might just help you win.
1. Corned Beef and Cabbage Is Irish-American, Not Irish
I know, I know — every bar and restaurant serves corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. I'm not knocking it! However, you're unlikely to find the dish in Ireland because it's, well, not an Irish dish. It's inspired by the traditional Irish dish of bacon and cabbage, which admittedly sounds a little strange; however, the general appeal was that bacon (all ham, really) was the cheapest meat in Ireland. Cows were also considered sacred in Ireland for a long time, so people didn't eat much beef in general.
But when the Irish came to the United States, ham was no longer the cheapest meat, so the dish was gradually updated to replace the bacon with the newest cheap meat: Corned beef. The entire meal being boiled is a pretty traditional Irish route, however; it's especially common for Irish-American communities in New England to continue doing boiled dinners (including boiled cabbage and potatoes, for example) on St. Patrick's Day. If you grew up in my neighborhood, you grew up eating boiled dinners at least twice a week.
2. St. Patrick Isn't Actually Irish
This part often gets glazed over when we talk about the history behind St. Patrick's Day: St. Patrick brought Catholicism to Ireland. That is to say, he brought it from somewhere else, and that somewhere else was Britain. At the time, Britain was under rule of the Roman Empire, so the man who would become St. Patrick was actually a Roman Briton. After being captured by Irish pirates, he was held as a prisoner in Ireland as a teenager before being sent back to his family. Eventually, he went back to Ireland with the mission of spreading Catholicism to the Irish people.
3. It's Not An Irish Tradition To Drink On St. Patrick's Day
Here in the United States, it's undoubtably a tradition to drink and party on St. Patrick's Day. However, in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is regularly recognized as a religious, somber holiday. Basically, it's meant to celebrate the life of St. Patrick and commemorate him for bringing Catholicism to Ireland. In fact, up through the 1970s, it was illegal to sell alcohol on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland. Now, there are parades and celebrations of St. Patrick in Ireland, but it's generally still more commemorative and serious than it is here in the United States.
4. Green Beer Isn't A Thing In Ireland
I love drinking green beer as much as the next person, but it's worth noting that green beer is just that: Beer dyed green. It isn't traditional to Ireland, either. In fact, the color green to commemorate St. Patrick's Day is a strange thing to begin with, as Bustle's Chelsey Grasso recently noted: In actuality, this color was a particular shade of blue. In fact, that shade of blue is actually still the Presidential standard in Ireland. So where did the green come from? The ccolor most of us associate with Ireland actually stems from when the Irish Nationalists separated from British rule.
So, there you have it! St. Patrick's Day is fun, festive holiday where people generally hang out with friends and family and have a good time. There's no harm in drinking green beer or dressing up as a leprechaun, but it's always good to know the history behind what you're doing. And if you're not as much of a history buff as I am, at least you can remember a factoid or two to amuse your friends.