Once again St. Patrick’s day is upon us and I have a feeling not many people know exactly what this holiday is about other than everyone claiming they’re Irish, getting either sexually harassed or pinched depending on how you look at it, and people getting belligerently drunk and throwing up behind their friends’ couch. I’d like to say it wasn’t always this way and there was a time when men could sit down amongst their buddies for a few brews and just enjoy themselves, but apparently this wasn’t the case. One newspaper described the St. Patrick’s Day scene in 1847 as “drunkenness, riot, and disorder prevailed to an extent which was frightful to contemplate.” It became such an issue that the people fought, and won, to get it changed from a beer-crazed festival into a puritan Sunday and in 1924 all public houses closed on the national holiday; a law that wouldn’t be reversed until the early 1960’s.
So who exactly is St. Patrick? It’s actually a pretty cool story that involves pirates, raiders, and pagan warlords and his journey to bring Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century. Depending on whom you ask, the story, the dates, and even his name are different depending on if you go by the Welsh, Scot, or French version, so I suggest you check it out and I’ll save you his biography.
The celebrations occur around the globe with the largest in the world occurring in New York City and in fact the first St. Patrick’s Day parade happened in NYC in 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the colonial city. The festivities are pretty similar no matter where you go; green, beer, and public displays of drunkenness with a good time had by all.
Although there is no direct correlation between St. Patrick and alcohol, alcohol seems to be the icing on the cake for the holiday and without the indulgence, the holiday just doesn’t feel complete. It took two decades of campaigning and anti-drunk parades in the mid 1800s to make it a dry holiday in an attempt to make an “appropriate” national day for “decent respectable people.” It became a somber day of traditional Gaelic games and wholesome entertainment, usually accompanied by dark clouds and rain. Another news clipping dated March 18, 1953 sums it up quite nicely in saying “St. Patrick’s Day was much like any other day, only duller.”