Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States date back as early as the mid-eighteenth century. Every year, parades take the streets nationwide as locals follow in their emerald-colored clothing. Meanwhile, many head down to their neighborhood Irish pub to enjoy a cold and creamy Guinness, perhaps accompanied with some corned beef and cabbage. Orange County remains in tune with these recognized traditions, ready to demonstrate Irish pride. So in hopes of accurately honoring Irish heritage, we thought about doing some digging as to how these customs originated and have developed up to this day.

Many don’t realize that Saint Patrick wasn’t born in Ireland, but rather was brought there by the British as an enslaved teenager. He went on to escape led by a voice and later came back guided by the same voice. This was a time when Irish Catholics were being pursued and oppressed by English soldiers. This resulted in many of their practices being forced underground. Religious teachers, accordingly, used common found items to demonstrate different aspects of the church. The shamrock became a symbol representing the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.)

Drinking

It’s no secret that Saint Patrick’s Day has become vastly popular and well-known for it’s all-day drinking ritual. In Ireland, consumption of Guinness is almost tripled on the 17th of March, compared to the daily tally. It started on the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death, when the Christians whom he had inspired held a grand feast in his honor. In the midst of Lent, this remembrance acted as an exception lifting any food and alcoholic restrictions temporarily. Today, countless Irish believers participate in the festivities on Saint Patrick’s Day, as a special case during the period of Lent.

Parades

During and after the Great Irish Famine in the years between 1845 and 1849, there was an unbelievable surge of Irish emigration into the United States. Over a million men and women traveled overseas. Now, 33 million claim to have Irish ancestry. Since the first parade, believed to have occurred back in 1762 in New York, descendants of all ages form parades across the country to celebrate their country's history.

Pinching/Wearing Green

Who doesn’t remember running around school giving and receiving pinches for those of us who just happened to forget to wear green? There are two beliefs associated with how this not-so-pleasant tradition was created. Some say that it began with a legendary tale of how mischievous leprechauns pinch anyone they can get to. Meanwhile, the ones wearing green become cloaked with magic, so they become non-pinchable. Others claim that it’s a shame tactic for those who forget to honor this sacred holiday.

Eating Corned Beef and Cabbage

This delicious combination became popular with the first celebrators of Saint Patrick’s Day in America. Beef was rare and extremely expensive in Ireland, so most families would consume pork instead in their homes. When Irish foreigners arrived in the United States, they discovered the exact opposite to be true: beef was far more economic than pork. Irish Americans quickly turned to corned beef, as it reminded them of their motherland.

And with that being said, we wish you a very festive Saint Patrick’s Day!