St. Patrick’s Day is made special by various traditions. Everything from dyeing major cities’ rivers green to parades to enjoying green foods has become part of the pageantry of St. Patrick’s Day.
The next time you raise a green beer to your lips, you may wonder which traditions are authentically Irish and which ones were created by regions with an abundance of Irish emigrants. Surprisingly, many seemingly Irish traditions likely began elsewhere.
It would be accurate to assume that various elements associated with St. Patrick’s Day began where St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, once resided, including the first St. Patrick’s Day parade. However, some of the first parades held in St. Patrick’s honor took place in two North American cities, New York and Boston, that had high numbers of Irish immigrants. But historians say the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually held in St. Augustine, Florida in 1601, a year after gunfire blasts were used to honor the saint. The parade may have been at the request of an Irish priest living there at the time.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
What would St. Patrick’s Day be without an authentic meal of corned beef and cabbage? This dish is not so authentic after all, and actually is an American innovation. Ham and cabbage was widely eaten in Ireland, but corned beef was a cheaper alternative found in America by immigrants. Therefore, corned beef became a staple of poor Irish immigrants living in lower Manhattan. The salted meat was boiled three times to remove some of the brine and make it palatable.
Green beer is not an Irish custom, but an American one. The most common beer consumed in Ireland is Guinness, which is dark brown to black in color, making green dye useless in Irish pubs since it would be largely invisible in the stout.
One would not associate golf with St. Patrick’s Day unless they reside in Nome, Alaska. Golf is a popular Irish pastime, and each year the Bering Sea Ice Classic Golf Tournament takes place right around St. Patrick’s Day. Bright green golf balls are used, and breaks are factored in between holes to warm up at local bars.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, individuals in the United States started wearing green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the early 1700s. They believed it “made one invisible to leprechauns.” The official color for the holiday used to be a sky blue known as “St. Patrick’s Day Blue,” established during the reign of King George III.
In addition to these traditions, specialty items, such as coffees and shakes, also are very popular. However, most of these do not have origins on the Emerald Isle, either. Yet, no matter where traditions began, there’s no denying St. Patrick’s Day has long inspired celebration.