Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Some St. Patrick's day traditions explained:

  1. Wearing Green -- According to some accounts, the original holiday color was blue. Sometime in the 18th century green became the mainstay, representing the lush landscape of The Emerald Isle, the nation’s symbolic shamrock and the traditionally green Irish revolutionary flags.
  2. Leprechauns -- In Irish folklore, leprechauns were cranky tricksters who you wouldn’t want to mess with. The cheerful, friendly ‘lil fairy most Americans associate with St. Paddy’s Day stems from a 1959 Walt Disney film called Darby O’Gill & the Little People. The Americanized, good-natured leprechaun soon became a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general.
  3. Pinch Me, I’m Irish -- In America during the early 1700s, revelers believed that wearing green made them invisible to leprechauns, who would pinch and, in some accounts, steal anyone they could see (i.e., anyone not wearing green). People began pinching those not wearing green on St. Paddy’s Day as a reminder to beware of the wily little sprites.
  4. Shamrocks -- You may have worn a shamrock tattoo or donned a clover-covered necklace on some St. Patrick’s Day past. According to Irish legend, St. Patrick used a three-leaved clover, or shamrock, to illustrate the idea of the Holy Trinity, versus the good luck associated with the four-leaved variety, a mistake many Americans make. 
  5. Kiss Me, I’m Irish -- Without a doubt the most popular Paddy’s Day T-shirt slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” is a reference to The Blarney Stone. Legend holds that kissing the stone brings good luck. If you can’t make it to Ireland to kiss the actual stone, convention says the next-best option is to kiss an Irishman. I bet a guy invented this tradition.
  6. The River Dye -- Chicago has dyed its river green for St. Patrick’s Day every year since 1962, when city workers realized that the dye they used to trace illegal dumping would provide a fun way to celebrate the holiday. They released 100 pounds of dye into the river, which kept it green for an entire week. Chicago now uses just enough dye to last one day in order to be kinder to Mother Earth.
  7. Lights on the ESB -- To attract nighttime attention during the 1964 World’s Fair, New York City added floodlights to the top 30 floors of The Empire State Building. Since then, the lights have changed colors to match seasonal events, including St. Patrick’s Day, when the top of Manhattan’s tallest building is greener than a freshly picked shamrock.
  8. Parades -- The First St. Paddy’s Parade didn’t take place in Ireland but in the U.S. in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the British military marched through the New York City streets playing music. In America today, New York, Boston and Chicago boast the biggest St. Paddy’s Day parades, with New York being the longest-running civilian parade in the world. (Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is a wee 75 years old.)
  9. Drinking … a Lot -- While Americans associate St. Paddy’s with binge drinking, the Irish consider it a religious holiday. Until the 1970s, a law required all Irish pubs to close every March 17th. Drinking on St. Paddy’s really only became popular in Ireland post-1995, with the start of a national campaign to attract tourists for the holiday. It worked — over a million people now attend Dublin’s five-day festival.
  10. Drinking Guinness -- Guinness Dry Stout was first brewed in Dublin during the mid-18th century and has become one of Ireland’s most famous exports. Though the company has no formal connection to St. Patrick’s Day, since the brew is tantamount to Ireland and Irish bars, it has become the unofficial drink of the holiday. With fewer calories than most light beers, you can toss a bunch back without feeling guilty.  It's one of the Grouch's favorites.
  11. Corned Beef -- Those who celebrate old-school by eating a meal of corned beef and cabbage are only really getting it partly right: The dish was originally eaten with bacon, not corned beef. Irish immigrants in America couldn’t afford the traditional bacon, so they substituted it with corned beef, a cheaper option they picked up from their Jewish neighbors.
  12. “Slainté!” -- You may hear revelers raise their stout and yell “slainté!,” the Irish word for health. Pronounced slightly differently depending on dialect (and drunkenness), shout out something phonetically similar to SLAN-cheh, and impress those who actually hail from The Land O’ Leprechauns.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post! I completely forgot it was St. Patrick's Day until about noon today. (One of my kids texted me that their practice would end early because the coach had plans to go out.)

    I had no idea that drinking wasn't popular in Ireland on SPD until after 95. I find that shocking. When I was a kid, I never thought of it as a 'drinking' holiday. It wasn't until I started working and everyone went out and got bombed on St. Patricks Day that I realized what a tradition it is for some.

    I think I will stay off the roads tonight and just watch the MSU College basketball game.