Observing St Patrick’s Day around the world is synonymous with downing a few (or more) whiskeys/beers/ciders and donning a shamrock-inspired outfit. The latter is known to relate to Saint Patrick himself cloaking up in green attire and (according to Wikipedia) using the three-leafed plant to explain the Holy Trinity. Meanwhile, the former has a relatively mysterious origin that is seldom questioned by the average punter.
Irish or non-Irish, the day is celebrated around the world, so we did a little digging to find out why this particular day is so darn boozy. Here’s a quick timeline of its history…
1660s: Saint Patrick was honoured each year on March 17 with a feast day, commemorating the day of his death. It’s not a feast without wine.
1700s: Celebrations were held across North America by Irish immigrants who fled Ireland during the potato famine. Their cultural customs transferred across the Atlantic, with the US being the first country to host St Patrick’s Day parades. You say potato, we say vodka.
Unknown: The Catholic Church lifted Lenten restrictions on drinking, allowing the consumption of alcohol, which many believe is the root association between indulgent drinking and St Patrick’s Day. Perhaps also the root of the saying, “I’m never drinking again” you know, to observe lent.
1927-1961: Except for Northern Ireland, there was a nation-wide ban on the selling of alcohol for 34 years. Liquor ban = dry parades.
1931: The day was officially celebrated in Ireland with the first state-recognised parade held in Dublin. And yet, no bars open.
1990s: The Republic of Ireland set up a group dedicated to observing the day with the ambitious goal of making St Patrick’s Day one of the greatest celebrations in the world. It’s not an Irish celebration without a stout.
Present day: A celebration of all things Irish, culminating in shamrock mania, leprechaun folk tales, green beer, bad impressions of accents, and next day sickies from work.
Based on what we can put together from this timeline, it seems the original tradition of celebrating ol’ mate Pat always involved a level of tippling. The evolution of the celebration nicely ties together the positive relationship the Irish have with their drinking cheer, with the age-old patronly respect to the namesake of the day.
Cheers, to a happy and safe St Patrick’s Day!