Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Pat's Trivia

I don't have a drop of Irish in my blood, but as it turns out my ancestors made an important contribution to the way St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in the United States. Back in Ireland, for centuries March 17 was a holy feast day. People would attend Mass in the morning, then go home and celebrate. Until the 1970s pubs were even closed, hard as that is for Americans to believe. Because March 17 always falls during Lent, Bishops would waive the stricture against meat, and celebrants would consume the traditional feast of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Early Irish immigrants to the US were either upper middle-class or in fact wealthy, but the potato famine brought wave after wave of poor Irish to our shores. Many of them congregated on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where they lived in a ghetto neighboring the Jewish and Italian ghettos. Discrimination kept them poor, and their poverty meant that they couldn't afford the luxury of bacon. The immigrants took a cue from their Jewish neighbors and discovered corned beef, a cheap alternative to bacon. And so we have my great-grandparents, living in poverty somewhere around Hester Street, to thank for today's preponderance of corned beef and cabbage. Sometimes cliches are true: we are all a little bit Irish today.

While I'm on the topic I have one final bit of St. Paddy's trivia. The color normally associated with Saint Patrick is blue. The wearing of green began a couple hundred years ago in the US, and was a show of solidarity with the Irish struggle for independence from England. OK, one last note of trivia and then I'm really done: Saint Patrick was undoubtedly an important guy, but he couldn't have driven all the snakes from Ireland, because Ireland never had any snakes to begin with. The terrain doesn't support them. Happy green drinking to all!


Sexy Witch said...

He drove out the "snakes" (who were actually pagans) to bring in Christianity

tunsie said...

If today means a break from the norm,and it incorporates excessive drinking 4 this day only.than there r some who have st patty day every day of the year.I have seen someone drink 8 [eight] vodka,clubs in 3 minutes.I have seen people drink shots dropped in beer[bombs] in a short amount of time.these were not college students pledging 2 a fraternity.they were people who consider themselves pillars of the community,going 2 meeting after meeting and discussing those meetings in thier alcohol infused state at a BAR.some people want 2 be stupid all the time.PUBLICLY.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie