St. Patrick’s Day
It seems the ice and snow has finally left us behind, at least here in Seattle. Spring is on its way bringing with it more sunlight and one of my favorite holidays: St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day started as a Catholic feast day commemorating the Irish saint. It is usually celebrated on the 17th of March, sometimes falling in the Lent season leading up to Easter. As we all prepare to don green, I thought it might be fun to learn about the history of this Irish holiday.
St Patrick was born just before the turn of the fifth century to a British family in the Roman occupied British Isles. His family was heavily involved in the Catholic Church, with his father serving as a deacon and his grandfather serving as a priest, but it would seem that Patrick did not necessarily share his family’s devotion. As a teenager, he was abducted by Irish sailors and sold as a slave in Ireland. It was there working as a shepherd that he supposedly found God. In his writings, Patrick describes hearing a voice telling him there was a ship ready to take him home. Encouraged, he escaped his captors and found a ship headed for Britain. After returning home and joining the catholic priesthood, Patrick became a missionary. He is largely credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, though he was not the first missionary to the isle. He is famous for using the three leafed shamrock as a teaching device to illustrate the Christian Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is why the plant is associated with the holiday. After his death on March 17th, the Catholic Church awarded him sainthood in recognition of his life’s work.
Ireland has since adopted St. Patrick as their patron saint. Though the Irish have historically observed St. Patrick’s feast day, they did not celebrate with the same fervor that is common in modern times. Today, Ireland has embraced the excesses of the holiday, taking advantage of tourists drawn by the festivities. Ireland has also used the holiday to celebrate and preserve their cultural heritage. In the early 20th century, the Irish declared the week of St. Patrick’s Day as Seachtain na Gaeilge or “Irish Language Week,” which is still practiced to this day. Irish citizens are encouraged to practice and learn about their native language in hopes of preserving it for future generations. Despite the emphasis on Irish identity, non-Irish people are encouraged to join in fun. The holiday has become a tool for cultivating beneficial relationships between Ireland and the rest of the world. Every year during the month of March, Ireland sends delegates around the world and even gifts shamrocks to the United States as a show of friendship.
In the United States, the day has become a more secular holiday used by Irish Americans to celebrate their Irish heritage. It’s customary to wear green for the holiday, though be warned: if you forget, friends and family may pinch you for it. Cities with historically large Irish American populations such as Boston and New York host large parades and celebrations. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in St. Augustine, Florida in 1601. St. Patrick’s Day parades are an American tradition that have been adopted by Ireland and other countries. It’s common to see schools, charities, fraternities and local first responders marching alongside the floats and the matching band in a show of communal solidarity. Other cities have their own way of celebrating. Seattle lights up the space needle in green. The city of Chicago dyes their river green every year and even the White House dyes the fountains green for the occasion. And American didn’t stop at just rivers and fountains; we dye everything green! Cake, candy and even beer can be found in vibrant shades of green.
As a feast day, no St. Patrick’s Day celebration would be complete without copious amounts of food. Signature dishes include corned beef, cabbage, soda bread and beer. Though it may seem daunting, making your own corned beef will always taste better than store bought, so I encourage you to branch out this St. Patrick’s Day. You will need a brisket, salt, stock vegetables and pickling spices. I like this recipe from FoodNetwork, though I substitute most of the spices for 3.5 tablespoons of our MarketSpice Pickling Spices. Alton Brown says to brine your corned beef 10 days in advance so you better get started! Make sure to serve it with cabbage and lots of beer.
Beannachtaí na féile Padraig ort! (Blessings of St. Patrick’s festival be upon you)
Created with an image by reichdernatur - "klee shamrocks luck"