The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America is a tradition as American as baseball-though considerably older. The year of 1737 may not seem remarkable or worth remembering, but it certainly represents the migration and evolution of a holiday celebrated in the United States from that year forward: St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday was celebrated officially and most appropriately in Boston. In 1780, George Washington even gave his troops a holiday on March 17 out of respect for his soldiers of Irish descent. This tradition, both religious and secular, has evolved into a massive celebration in the United States. In the secular sense, it is now celebrated by Irish-Americans and Americans of other descent alike, as well as many Catholics, Protestants, and more. In America, St. Patrick’s Day represents a celebration of Irish culture.
For most Irish-Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is a recognition of heritage best honored by a combination of various elements such as alcohol, the wearing of the green, church, music, and parades. Most major cities on the east coast close off major streets for parades. Whether or not you live in or near one of these cities, there are several things you can do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia respectively host the three oldest continuous public St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States.
Wear green Traditionally, the color green represents Ireland. It is used as the backdrop for the traditional harp flag (also used as the Irish-American flag) and represents Catholic Ireland in the tricolor, which is also the Republic of Ireland’s official flag. To expatriates and Irish-Americans in particular, green also represents the landscape of Ireland.
Hear the music Surround yourself with Celtic and traditional Irish music. This is the perfect day to learn about céilí, sean nós, and folk styles, as well as Irish instruments. If you live near a city, chances are that you’ll be able to find a pub with live Irish music.
Eat Irish cuisine There’s more to Irish food than meat and potatoes, at least according to Gerry Timlin, Ed Egan, and Brian Duffy, proprietors and head chef of http://www.shanachiepub.com/>The Shanachie, located in suburban Philadelphia. At this upscale pub and restaurant, a patron will remember that Ireland is an island, and fish are on the menu. Rich cheeses and berries are served as appetizers. The décor and dish presentation of the establishment represent a respectable heritage firm in Celtic tradition. At The Shanachie and places similarly rich in all aspects of Irish culture, you’ll be able to receive your dose of food, drink, and music all in one sitting, just as it’s done in Ireland.
Learn some Irish Gaelic “Sláinte,” meaning literally ‘health,’ is a word oft used on St. Patrick’s Day anywhere the holiday is celebrated. It is used as a toast itself or following a toast as you might use “cheers,” though the expression connotates some respect and camaraderie to those within hearing distance. Also helpful are: “Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh,” or, “St. Patrick’s Day blessings upon you,” and “Pionta Guinness, le do thoil,” or “a pint of Guinness, please.”
Wear a shamrock Shamrocks are associated with St. Patrick because he used the ‘three in one’ concept to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland. For the pagans, the element of three already existed richly in their culture, and this bridge helped them to understand Christianity.
Do some research What captivates you about Irish culture? Perhaps you want to find out more about your ancestry or religion in Ireland. Culture and history will be readily available to you on March 17th.
Do talk to strangers If you see a stranger wearing green, introduce yourself if you are in a safe public setting. Chances are you will soon come across an individual willing to express her or his gratitude for Irish culture and heritage. The oral exchange of information is deeply entwined in Irish culture-let’s keep it alive in America. Be sure to offer a story in exchange if you have one.
Have a drink..or a few General Irish culture embraces fine drink. Beyond the stereotype, there is much to enjoy about alcohol. Irish-Americans and others celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in America tend to include as much Irish culture and pride in one day as possible, so this may include fine beverages such as (or containing) Bailey’s Irish Cream, Guinness and Harp, Bunratty mead, and potent whiskey.
Whether you see yourself as an active participant or a casual observer of American life on St. Patrick’s Day, try immersing yourself in a bit of Irish culture and enjoy the sights and sounds.