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Saturday, June 3, 2023
June 3, 2023

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U.S. celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day stray from Irish roots

Parades, boozing among traditions started in U.S.


St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by millions of people in the United States every year, with people seeing the yearly celebration as a pot of gold for drinking, celebrating and socializing, all while decked out in green.

While St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17 every year on the anniversary of the saint’s death, is of major importance to the Irish community, many of the traditions celebrated both in America and worldwide hold little basis in Irish culture.

For many traditions, the green of St. Patrick’s Day has been painted over with a heavy dose of red, white and blue.

St. Patty’s Day or St. Paddy’s Day?

The term “St. Patty’s Day” has become a commonly used colloquialism in the United States for St. Patrick’s Day. The shortening of the name most likely came from the nickname “Patty,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, but it’s a name that is technically incorrect in Irish culture.

In Ireland, the name Patty is short for Patricia, while the name Patrick is the anglicized form of the name Pádraig. St. Pádraig was born in Britain before being taken to Ireland as a prisoner and ultimately introduced Christianity to Ireland, earning him the honor of Ireland’s most prominent patron saint.

If you go

What: Paddy Hough Parade

When: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Viewing is on Main Street between 24th and McLoughlin streets in Vancouver.


That means technically the name of the holiday is St. Pádraig’s Day, and in turn, St. Paddy’s day.

Drinking on St. Patrick’s Day originated in America

St. Patrick’s Day is the third-heaviest drinking day in America, according to a survey of over 1,000 people conducted by alcohol.org.

But drinking was never a part of the original holiday in Ireland. In fact, it was Irish emigrants to the United States that first incorporated revelry into proceedings, celebrating their Irish culture together despite being so far from home.

The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade — another American creation — took place in Boston in 1737 and other U.S. cities soon followed suit. In fact, for much of the holiday’s existence in Ireland local pubs closed for people to observe the holiday due to its religious nature, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that pubs remained open in Ireland as the country followed suit in its celebrations along with the rest of the world.

The Irish never used to eat corned beef

The closer we get to St. Patrick’s Day the more you’ll see the “traditional” Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage on menus around the U.S.

But the Irish never used to eat beef — beef wasn’t widely available for much of Ireland’s history, so instead, the traditional meal would consist of Irish bacon and cabbage.

But when Irish expats to the United States arrived on the East Coast, corned beef was one of the easiest and cheapest meats for people to get their hands on. So Irish bacon was quickly substituted with corned beef among Irish Americans.

Wearing green also originated in America

St. Patrick’s Day remained a religious holiday in Ireland until the mid-to-late 1900s, but wearing green became a thing in America around the same time as parades began, in the early 1700s.

Green was worn for multiple reasons. One of the earliest reasons was because revelers thought that wearing green would make them invisible to leprechauns, who according to legend would pinch people who were not wearing green (and therefore not invisible).

Green is also worn on St. Patrick’s Day because of the green stripe on the Irish flag. The Irish flag features three stripes, with green representing the Roman Catholics, orange representing Protestants, and the white stripe down the middle representing the peace between the two groups.

With St. Patrick’s Day being a Christian holiday, the green was adopted from the flag.

Irish car bombs

The Irish car bomb is a famous shot in the United States, consumed year-round but especially around St. Patrick’s Day. The shot consists of half an ounce each of Irish whiskey and Bailey’s Irish cream and is topped off with Guinness.

The name comes from a weapon that the Irish Republican Army often used against their Northern Ireland enemies throughout the 1900s. The IRA looked to end British rule in Northern Ireland and was seen as a popular underdog movement until July 1972 when 22 car bombs went off in Northern Ireland, killing nine people and injuring 130 more.

While the shot may be a popular drink in the U.S., not many places in Ireland would take kindly to someone ordering an “Irish car bomb.”