How To Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day

What did you first think when you read the title of today's post?
- Leprechauns? Shamrocks? Pot of gold?
- Drunken revelry? Celebrations out of control?
- Green bagels? Green beer? Green painted people?

After working in NYC for years, I've seen it all. I find it most curious the way that people "honor" St. Patrick on March 17th. I once witnessed a near-fatal showdown between mounted police and carousing, green-faced partygoers who spilled out of a bar and blocked 33rd St. and nearly became a casualty myself!

Since St. Patricks Day in Ireland is a religious holiday, I wondered how these American traditions developed. provided a few answers:

-In Irish folklore, leprechauns were cranky tricksters who you wouldn’t want to mess with. The cheerful, friendly ‘lil fairy most Americans associate with St. Paddy’s Day stems from a 1959 Walt Disney film called Darby O’Gill & the Little People. The Americanized, good-natured leprechaun soon became a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general.

- You may have worn a shamrock tattoo or donned a clover-covered necklace on some St. Patrick’s Day past. According to Irish legend, St. Patrick used a three-leaved clover, or shamrock, to illustrate the idea of the Holy Trinity, versus the good luck associated with the four-leaved variety, a mistake many Americans make.

Green Milk Shake
- Introduced in 1970, and discontinued in 1990, the deliciously minty McDonald’s Shamrock Shake returned to select stores in 2008. Only available for the month of March, the shake has received rave reviews by milkshake connoisseurs, who have entire websites dedicated to finding all of the shake-selling McDonald’s outposts.

Chicago's Green River
- Chicago has dyed its river green for St. Patrick’s Day every year since 1962, when city workers realized that the dye they used to trace illegal dumping would provide a fun way to celebrate the holiday. They released 100 pounds of dye into the river, which kept it green for an entire week. Chicago now uses just enough dye to last one day in order to be kinder to Mother Earth.

- The First St. Paddy’s Parade didn’t take place in Ireland but in the U.S. in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the British military marched through the New York City streets playing music. In America today, New York, Boston and Chicago boast the biggest St. Paddy’s Day parades, with New York being the longest-running civilian parade in the world. (Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is a wee 75 years old.)

Drinking … a Lot
- While Americans associate St. Paddy’s with binge drinking, the Irish consider it a religious holiday. Until the 1970s, a law required all Irish pubs to close every March 17th. Drinking on St. Paddy’s really only became popular in Ireland post-1995, with the start of a national campaign to attract tourists for the holiday. It worked — over a million people now attend Dublin’s five-day festival.

Corned Beef
- Those who celebrate old-school by eating a meal of corned beef and cabbage are only really getting it partly right: The dish was originally eaten with bacon, not corned beef. Irish immigrants in America couldn’t afford the traditional bacon, so they substituted it with corned beef, a cheaper option they picked up from their Jewish neighbors. (Too bad they didn’t grab some bagels while they were at it!)

The prayer of St. Patrick adds the right perspective to this celebratory day. After reading the words and sensing the heart of this godly man, it grieves me to see the misunderstanding that the celebration of his life has become.

I arise today through God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear for me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
Christ be with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise.

Christ in the heart of everyone thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.
Christ in every eye that sees me.
Christ in every ear that hears me.

"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13

Oh that Christ would flow through me in such a way that people would see Him when they "think of me, speak of me, see me, or hear me." May your day today be filled with His presence. And may His presence flow through you to those around you today and everyday.


Marja said...

Awesome post Susan, so full of information, I knew some of it.. but not all. What beautiful words at the end!!! Oh, that Christ would flow through me...

lynnmosher said...

Hey, sweetie! Great post! I, too, knew some but not all of this. I almost used the prayer on my post. Isn't it great? Have missed you. Hope all is well with you. Be blessed! :D

Maria said...

I remember on 33rd strret one year the crowds almost overturned a car. I was so frightened. I don't know if I was with you or walking alone but that was the worst I have seen in NYC on that so called holiday.

Cheri Bunch said...

Susan, You are the winner!!! I will be sending the book soon! Love ya! Cheri

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Susan -

Thanks for all the details on how St. Patrick's Day traditions originated.

It's not the only holiday that's been mangled. Just think what's been done with Christmas.