Unsurprisingly, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national holiday. The festivities usually involve parades and parties. Everyone who celebrates wears a green outfit, whether it’s a hat, belt, shirt, socks or something more creative. The day itself is a religious and cultural event held on March 17 to commemorate the death in 461 of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
Saint Patrick’s Day arrives in the middle of Lent. Lent is historically known for restrictions on alcohol and other sacrifices, but these restrictions are usually lifted for this saint’s day in order to properly share the tradition of the feast drink. These days, the celebrations within the Irish diaspora are bigger than those in Ireland itself.
Many carry a shamrock, a three-leafed plant that Saint Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. In some places there is the custom of “drowning the shamrock”, which involves placing a shamrock in the bottom of a cup, filling it with a libation, and toasting Saint Patrick and all present. The clover is either swallowed when the cup is emptied or thrown over the shoulder for good luck.
While St. Patrick’s Day is a good day to celebrate “Irishness” and Irish heritage, it’s also important to remember to do so in disciplined moderation. One can still participate in the carefree joys of the day. Still, with an eye on temperance, one can forgo potentially bad aftermaths the next morning like a throbbing head or a stay in the local hoosegow.
Patrick J. Wood, editor
Author of “Dear Reader” and “Tapestry of Love and Loss”