Lifestyle Feature

St. Patrick's Day

The True Meaning of the Holiday

Oh, St. Patrick's Day: every adult over the age of 21's favorite holiday. Okay, who am I kidding? No one waits until they're 21 anymore. St. Patrick's Day is a day when the bars open early and it's perfectly acceptable to start binge drinking at 8 A.M, where the phenomenon of Kegs and Eggs where you accompany your hearty breakfast with a nice pint of Guinness, or many, is as commonplace as wearing green. It's the way the holiday was meant to be celebrated, or is it?

The other day I sat down with Ireland-native Anne Corrigan to find out just exactly what St. Patrick's Day is all about. Born in 1952, Anne grew up in Drogheda, a city 30 miles outside of the capital, Dublin. In the mid-seventies Anne and her husband were moved to the United States for work. They lived here for about four years before they moved back to Ireland for the same reason. Then in 1989, the Corrigan's called the United States home once again, and have been living here happily since.

In America, we often have a skewed reality of what certain holidays and traditions are supposed to be about. St. Patrick's Day is no different. Classrooms, homes, and bars are decorated with shamrocks and leprechauns and adults go out bar hopping and binge drink until they pass out. Growing up in Ireland, Anne had a different perspective:

“St. Patrick's Day is a family day to us, and we have a family celebration with traditional foods from Ireland. It is sort of like Thanksgiving! When I was a child we all had the day off from school. We all went to church as it is a religious holiday and then to the parade. Then we would have the celebration with the traditional foods. If you were a teenager there would be dances in the evening, and of course everyone went to their favorite bar!”

In the 1997 film, "The Devil's Own", Brad Pitt plays an Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader who flees to America. While in America he tries corned beef and cabbage and says he has never heard of it. In America that's what we would consider a traditional Irish meal. Anne agrees with Brad Pitt, “He was right when he said that he had never heard of it. We do not eat corned beef and cabbage. In fact, I had never heard of it until I came here. We do eat cabbage but the meat is bacon (not bacon strips like breakfast bacon, it is a large piece of pig that we boil) It is sort of like ham but from a different part of the animal. So Irish people eat bacon and cabbage and mashed potatoes. We also have Irish soda bread.”

Anything with the word bacon in it sounds good to me. Unfortunately, that piece of meat is not available here in the states. So, living in Ohio, Anne had to improvise. “I will be preparing roast pork, roasted and mashed potatoes, parsnips with carrots, applesauce soda bread, and, of course, cabbage.”

As you can see St. Patrick's Day is celebrated completely differently here in the states than in Ireland. It's a religious holiday and a day to celebrate national pride; a day for families to come together and be thankful. That's just how Anne feels: “I think St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is really about celebrating family and the land and a culture that is ancient. Irish roots go very deep. We have been raided and attacked and subdued by other cultures but still survived and emerged victorious!”

So this St. Patrick's Day, when you're out chugging Irish Car Bombs (which are offensive to the Irish as it is a reference to the IRA) and Guinness raise your glass to Ireland and celebrate a rich and proud heritage. Cheers!