Having graduated from Notre Dame, I’ve spent years sporting shirts that say: Go Irish! I have proudly flown their flag, I love Irish dance, and I appreciate a stout Irish ale. I don’t know much, though, about real Irish culture. One year, I took a bus with a friend to Chicago. We arrived to find the city packed with people who were covered head to toe in green. It was St. Patrick’s Day.
If you’ve never seen the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade, it is something to behold. People are decked out in green wigs, green beads, green face paint, green everything. They even dye the Chicago River green for the occasion. My friend and I ducked into a pub to enjoy a nice green beer as we sat and watched people stumble toward the parade route. I am sure that the parade-goers we were watching had started their day at 7 a.m. with a power hour, toasting each drink to St. Patrick.
This year, I finally decided to get an answer to the question: How do the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Our friend Martin Fogarty was kind enough to let me interrogate him about Irish customs. He is from Ireland and moved to the United States after getting married. Martin even ran a pub for quite a while in Ireland. (If you read the interview with an Irish accent it makes it much better.)
After I spoke with Martin, I was inspired to read up on St. Patrick. Here are few things you probably never knew:
- He was actually Roman, born to parents living in modern day Scotland.
- At the age of 16, he was captured by Irish pirates (yes, they existed) and sold into slavery. He herded sheep for six years before he was able to escape to a monastery in England. It was in the fields that St. Patrick turned to God and became a mystic. He spent each moment in prayer.
- St. Patrick became a priest and returned to Ireland. At the time, it was a land of Druids and pagans and he worked tirelessly to convert them. He was a missionary until his death 40 years later.
- One legend says that a chieftain tried to kill St. Patrick, but his arm became paralyzed until he treated St. Patrick with kindness and listened to him.
- The color originally associated with St. Patrick was blue.