Celebrate St. Patty’s Day like the Irish

By Leah Lancione

          In the United States, St. Patrick’s Day is often celebrated by wearing of green (to avoid getting pinched), eating corned beef and cabbage, excessive drinking and, in many cities, parades. However, in Ireland the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death on March 17 is a religious day commemorated by a morning mass followed by a family feast—a break from the avoidance of eating meat during Lent—that includes Irish bacon or roasted chicken and, of course, cabbage. “Observed for more than 1,000 years, on St. Patrick’s Day families traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon” (www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day).

Though the first parades commemorating the holiday were initiated by Irish immigrants in America, the revelry has spread to Ireland, especially in the last two decades, with the Catholic holiday now extended to a week of festivities. Despite many in the U.S. celebrating with excessive drinking (“drowning the shamrock”), this practice of binge drinking has not become an official facet of the holiday in Ireland, although it’s customary to pop into a pub for a pint with family and friends.

So how do you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day now that you are aware American and Irish traditions differ? For starters, take a minute to reflect on the real history of Saint Patrick. According to expert Philip Freeman, the author of St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, Patrick was not Irish, but was kidnapped at age 16 from his home in Great Britain and sent to tend sheep in Ireland. After seven years there he became a Christian, heard a voice, according to folklore, that directed him to escape back to his homeland. After arriving in Britain, he was ordained as a priest and then heard a voice again, telling him to return to the “Emerald Isle.” Freeman explains that the mythology surrounding Patrick grew over the years, including the claim that he used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity in an effort to convert the Irish people to Christianity. Freeman says after centuries of folklore, Patrick was honored as the patron saint of Ireland (http://news.nationalgeographic.com).

As St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and is thereby deemed the national apostle of Ireland, “most of what is known about him comes from his two works: the Confession, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians (www.st-patricks-day.com/about_saintpatrick.html).

If you choose to start St. Patty’s Day at mass like most Irish do,The Catholic Review has publicized that Father John Murray will be the homilist at the 10 a.m. St. Patrick’s Day Mass at St. Patrick in Fells Point. As St. Patrick’s Day 2013 falls on a Sunday, surely a host of local parishes and churches will also hold services honoring Ireland’s patron saint.

In Dublin, where St. Patrick’s Day will be observed with four days of events including music and street performances, an Irish Craft Beer Village, the Greening of the city, i.e., illuminated buildings, and more, there will even be a  two-hour guided walking tour that focuses on the legend of St. Patrick.

Beyond getting decked out in green and shamrock-emblazoned outfits and studying the true history and folklore of St. Patrick, why not also take an opportunity to cook up an authentic Irish feast. If you can find a local butcher shop for fresh Irish bacon that’s ideal, however, if it’s not possible, visit www.tommymaloneys.com to order traditional Irish breakfast bacon or other specialty Irish meats online. You can even order corned beef and meat pies as well as traditional Irish puddings. For the time-honored Irish bacon and cabbage recipe, visit www.yourirish.com/irish-bacon-cabbage-recipe

Finally, if you want to have a pint at the end of the meal, go for a real Irish beer like Guinness, which is still brewed in Ireland. Some may not know that even George Killian’s Irish Red “has little to do with the Irish red ale George Killian produced in Ireland from 1864 to 1956.” After Killian’s brewery closed its doors, the brand was passed on to a French brewery and, eventually, to Coors. It’s now part of the Molson Coors empire and that doesn’t brew a drop on Irish soil (www.thestreet.com). Now go out, support the local economy, and grab a pint or two to cap off the holiday at one of the Annapolis area’s Irish pubs: Castlebay Irish Pub at193-A Main St., which is owned by a native Dubliner; Galway Bay Irish Pub at 63 Maryland Ave.; Fadó Irish Pub, at One Park Place #7; The John Barry Restaurant & Bar at O’Callaghan Hotel, 174 West St., Annapolis; Brian Boru Restaurant and Pub at 489 Ritchie Hwy, Severna Park; Irish Channel Pub at 1053 Rte. 3 North, in Crofton, which is owned by two brothers from County Cork and Killarney House at 584 West Central Ave., in Davidsonville.

There you have it: bona fide instructions for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day like the Irish. “Erin Go Bragh!”

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