St. Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2021 – Adrianna Holt, Adult Services

Americans are genetic mutts. A majority of people are a mishmash of everything that came over from another continent. My parents both have Irish origins on their respective sides of the family, which ultimately turned me into one little stereotypical leprechaun. Not really, but I am a redhead and I do wear green a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pot of gold hiding at the end of any rainbow. I’m not angry all the time, even if my husband disagrees. I will say that I really do like some potatoes. I’ve also taken Irish dancing lessons, but I will not show you any of my moves, mostly because I’ve forgotten most of them. For the first time last year, I tried corned beef and cabbage, it’s pretty good. Overall, I’m an American mutt, but I do love me some St. Paddy’s Day.

Coming to America

Our country, when it was just starting up, drew a lot of immigrants to its lands. As most people are aware, the Irish were one of these peoples. Both Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants immigrated to what we know as the United States, some as early as the beginning of the 18th century. Between the years of 1820 and 1930, roughly about 4.5 million Irish migrated to America.The Great Potato Famine devastated the isles of Ireland in 1845, which led to death, destitution, and starvation which led to immigration to the United States. 

In the beginning, many immigrants are unfortunately looked upon badly, whether it’s for their different accents, beliefs, clothes, or customs, and the Irish were no different. It got to the point where they were even turned down for very low-paying jobs. Newspapers mocked Irish Americans in the cartoons by illustrating them as drunken, violent monkeys for the shenanigans they may have gotten up to when celebrating their heritages on St.Patrick’s Day. Eventually their numbers grew to the point where they felt they could gather together so as to not be low man on the totem pole anymore.

Most people know that March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. They’re aware that you’re supposed to wear green or you’ll get pinched. I think most people are aware why it’s called St. Patrick’s Day but perhaps you don’t. St Patrick’s day is celebrated on the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death in the fifth century. It has been celebrated as a religious-ish holiday in Ireland for over 1,000 years. St. Patrick’s Day coincides with the holiday of Lent that is observed by Christians, so Irish families would go to church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Prohibitions enforced by Lent are waived on this day, so that people celebrate by dancing, drinking, and gorging themselves, especially on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. The laws became a little looser in the 1970s when the pubs were allowed to open on March 17th because until then they’d be closed for that particular holiday.

Good Ol’ St. Patrick

St.Patrick was obviously not born a saint. He lived during the 5th century and was not even born in Ireland. He was born in Roman Britain, then kidnapped when he was a teenager and brought to the isles of Ireland as a slave. During his enslavement, he found God, escaped, and then later returned to Ireland to bring Christianity, which is referred to as ‘driving the snake out of Ireland’. It is believed that he died on March 17, 461, which is why we now celebrate it on that particular day of days. The lore that surrounded this saint’s life became rooted into Irish culture. One of the most renowned myths is that St. Patrick the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: he explained the Holy Trinity of Christianity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with the illustration of the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.

St. Patrick’s Day Festivities

People did not start celebrating this holiday until the 9th-10th centuries. The first of the St. Patrick’s parades that are now enjoyed by so many, did not take place in Ireland but in the United States. Documents have recorded that the first St.Patrick’s Day parade was actually held in what is now St.Augustine, Florida, on March 17, 1601. About 170 years later in New York City, Irish soldiers that were fighting for the English marched on those streets to pay homage to their lauded Irish patron saint. Everybody became pretty stoked about these parades and they spread throughout the United States. In the late 19th century, different NY Irish Aid societies united their parades into one official NYC St.Paddy’s Day Parade. The New York City parade is now one of the largest in participation, about 150k people, and is the oldest civilian parade in the world. Almost every year (because COVID hit last year), approximately 3 million people will stand outside along the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the parade, which spans almost one-fourth of a day long. As most immigrants tend to do, the Irish created their own traditions throughout the United States. In 1962, in the big ol’ windy city of Chicago, one of these traditions was dyeing the Chicago River green every year on St. Patrick’s Day. It occurred when city pollution-control workers that utilize dyes in order to detect illegal sewage discharges found that this dye could also be used to celebrate the Day of St. Patrick. They went a little bit overboard by dumping 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river, so that it would stay green for a week. Thankfully, it has been cut back a lot these days, so as to not damage our environment, and only 40 pounds of dye are used so the river is green for only several hours.Nowadays, not just Ireland and the United States celebrate this holiday, but roughly about 50 different countries. Some countries that I found interesting that they celebrate St.Paddy’s Day are Argentina, Croatia, Japan, and Russia.

If you want some delicious Irish fare, go check out Katy O’Ferrell’s at 300 Broadway, right here in Cape. I really like their carrots, potato pancakes (called a boxty), and shepherd’s pie. However, if you’d like to get in the spirit of St. Paddy’s Day, there are some good books to check out below.

Some of the Irish authors we have in our collection:

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
Milkman by Anna Burns
Highfire by Eoin Colfer
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
Dubliners by James Joyce
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
Normal People by Sally Rooney

Check out and make some delicious Irish food from some of these cookbooks:

The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews
Real Irish Food: 150 Classic Recipes from the Old Country by David Bowers
Irish Country Cooking, More than 100 Recipes for Today by Irish Countrywomen’s Association
The Irish Country Kitchen by Mary Kinsella 


Clans and Families of Ireland by John Grenham
The Great Famine: Ireland’s Potato Famine, 1845-51 by John Percival
The Isles: A History by Norman Davies
Modern Ireland, 1600-1972 by R.F. Foster
Heritage of Ireland: A History of Ireland & Its People by Nathaniel Harris
A New History of Ireland by Chris Kinealy
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
1916, The Irish Rebellion (DVD)
Bitter Freedom: Ireland in a Revolutionary World by Maurice Walsh
The IRA: A History by Timothy Patrick Coogan


Frommer’s Easy Guide to Ireland 2018 by Jack Jewers
Ireland by Lisa Gerard-Sharp
Lonely Planet Discover Ireland by Neil Wilson
Lonely Planet Ireland by Fionn Davenport

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