|Hore Abbey, Cashel Ireland. Photo: www.pdphoto.com|
|Bacon and cabbage. Photo: Ayumi, Wikipedia. Creative Commons 2.0|
Besides the traditional roast pork, another early Irish tradition was the "Wetting" or "Drowning" of the shamrock. Fasting from alcohol was also apparently suspended on St. Patrick’s Day so that the men could "sell" the shamrock they wore to the local landowner, for a small sum of money, which they could then use at the local taverns to buy “the pota Pádraig, or ‘Patrick's Pot’” which was, of course, filled with alcohol. Larger celebrations were uncommon in Ireland at the time.
Irish colonists in North America, in particular, marked the day with parades as well as feasting. These celebrations quickly became political statements as well as expressions of Irish identity and culture. According to historical record, the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration occurred before the American Revolution, as the Irish colonists, and Irish soldiers among the British regiments in Boston and New York put together small parades and fife and drum concerts. The officers of the regiments formed themselves into a cultural society for the purpose of organizing these celebrations, along with the drinking of toasts to the King of England as well as “the prosperity of Ireland” with the public. With the advent of war with England, Irish Americans stopped the parades and toasting the King’s health, and instead toasted the Irish as they struggled for their own independence at about the same time. In 1780 George Washington is said to have given American soldiers the day off on March 17th as a gesture of solidarity with the Irish.
With the end of the war, and the securing of American independence, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations resumed in New York, Boston and other cities, led by new American citizens, and included fife and drum music, banquets, and parades marching from parish churches to the most prominent church or cathedral in the area. Irish newcomers found beef – especially beef preserved with coarse salt, or “corned beef” – to be much cheaper than in Ireland, and they began to use it in place of the traditional pork for their holiday feasts. Instead of roasting the meat and vegetables, they adapted the common English “boiled supper” to their tastes, and soaked the salt out of the beef before boiling it with the cabbage and root vegetables that they knew from Ireland. The corned beef supper, then is a tradition among Irish-Americans only!
Parades and drinking toasts continued through the 18th century and into the 19th, and as conditions in Ireland grew worse and the Irish population in the United States grew, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations got bigger and bigger. The rapidly swelling population, combined with competitions for the best parades, and the drinking of toasts, meant that things could and did often get rowdy on St. Patrick’s Day. This worried the more settled Irish-American citizens, who already saw attitudes towards the Irish turning negative.
Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.
Sources: "St. Patrick's Day" from History.com
"10 Things You Didn't Know About St. Patrick's Day" by Frances Romero
“History of St. Patrick’s Day is Long and Colorful” by Robert McNamara
“St. Patrick’s Day” Wikipedia article
“Corned Beef” Wikipedia article
“Saint Patrick's Day Parades: How this Tradition Developed in the USA and was Re-Imported to Ireland” by Bernd Biege
“A Traditional Saint Patrick's Day: How the Irish Remembered and Celebrated Saint Patrick in the Old Days” by Bernd Biege
"Irish tea, Ireland's national beverage" by Michael Ogden
"Old Irish food recipes" by Michael Ogden
"The History of Saint Patrick" by Michael Ogden
"Irish Tea Party"
"Bigelow Tea looks at tea in Ireland"
“History of Ireland”