Ireland’s Green Holiday


John Huber, Reporter

March has arrived, the weather alternates between cold and warm, nature shows its colors again and the flora of the Northern Hemisphere shines an abundant shade of green. Speaking of green, this is the month green is associated with a certain holiday that can make anyone feel a bit Irish. That’s St. Patrick’s Day!

Why is this day celebrated and why is it important to the Irish? Let’s look back on where it came from.

The holiday traces back to the ninth and 10th century when it was regarded as feast day in Ireland. However, parades did not start until 17th century in a Spanish colony in what today is known as St. Augustine, Florida with a celebration in 1600 with a parade and celebrated again a year later. Later, homesick Irish soldiers stationed in New York City celebrated the holiday in 1772, enthusiasm grew and spread to other early American cities.

Over the next 35 years and into the mid-19th century, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished along the insurgence of Irish immigrants into America, escaping the Great Potato Famine which first hit in 1845 when the Irish potato crop failed in successive years. When immigrants celebrated the holiday, they were stereotyped as violent monkeys prompting the rise of “Irish Aid” societies. The Irish soon realized that, with their growing numbers, they could influence politics as a “green machine” and became an important swing vote for political hopefuls.

In 1848, several of those societies in New York combined their parades into one big parade. Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States with over 150,000 participants.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman attended New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a proud moment for the many Irish Americans whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in the New World. It inspired other traditions, like in Chicago as the river was dyed green in 1962 (which, in turn, was inspired Savannah, Georgia to do the same thing a year earlier.)

The tradition soon spread around the world and now includes Japan, Singapore and Russia and, in modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government waged a national campaign to use interest in St. Patrick’s Day to drive tourism and showcase Ireland and Irish culture to the rest of the world.

So, Allow Me to Change Your Mind

I don’t mind the holiday. As someone who is part Irish, I can respect both the religious aspect of the holiday and the more conventional holiday which is more of a celebration of Irish culture. It’s fun to embrace my Irish roots and maybe wear green.

There is one St. Patrick’s Day tradition I can do without, though. Wearing green on March 17 is supposed to make you invisible to leprechauns, who will pinch you if they come upon you on their radar and you are not wearing green. This is mostly seen during elementary and early middle schools (from personal experience). I am not a fan of this as it can have consequences for your peers and potentially get you into trouble. As some alternatives to the pinching, I suggest a tap on the shoulder or a subtle jab to the arm as neither of them hurt.

Aside from the pinching, the other thing I have a problem with is the food you eat for dinner which is traditionally corned beef and cabbage. If you eat it every year, it can become predictable to the point where your taste buds get used to it.

Alternate recipes include short ribs, a hearty baked potato soup, lamb chops and cauliflower mush, shepherd’s pie plain or with sweet potato topping a veggie casserole. Prioritize green vegetables if you must.

If March 17 falls on a Friday (as it will next year), you can do crispy cod alongside sweet potato fires. If you must have corned beef at some point during the day, don’t limit it to dinner. Make yourself a corned beef sandwich and, i you do have the standard Irish dinner on the 17, save it and you’ll have leftovers for days or even weeks.