Deep Fried Diaries

The insider's scoop on food, travel & southern culture

SIMONE SEZ: St. Patty’s Day Exposé

Photo from Washington DC St. Patrick's Day Parade 2012 (DC spotlight / Joanna Moreno)

Photo from Washington DC St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2012
(DC spotlight, Joanna Moreno)

Top o’ the morning!

We’re getting dangerously close to my favorite Irish holiday. (Is there more than one?) With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner (Sunday, March 17), I thought a special St. Patty’s Day post might be in order.

I hate to burst your bubble, but Saint Patrick (the patron saint of Ireland) was not Irish! He was actually born in Roman Britain, brought to Ireland as a slave, and would later spread Christianity to Ireland’s people. But more on that in a moment.

There’s been quite a bit of buzz around town about where one might go this weekend for a little green beer. But first, I wanted to touch on the reason for celebration. I wanted to give you an idea of what this St. Patty’s Day hullabaloo is all about.

I thought the best format for this post might be a Q&A. So I asked you guys what you wanted to know about St. Patrick’s Day, and the questions just came pouring in! As always in my line of work, I’m happy to fill a need for information.

Simone, could you tell us about this Saint Patrick character?

Why, indeed I can. As I mentioned above, Saint Patrick was actually born in fifth-century Roman Britain, captured at age 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave. After he escaped, he lived for 12 year at a monastery and eventually returned to Ireland to spread Christianity to its people. St. Patrick’s Day is the saint’s religious feast day, honoring the patron saint of Ireland on the anniversary of his death (March 17).

How did St. Patrick’s Day grow to be so big in America?

Because we’re America, and we steal all the good holidays! (Next up, Cinco de Mayo) That’s what you do when you’re the melting pot.

To be a little more specific, the Great Potato Famine of 1845 brought close to a million Irish Catholics and their customs to America. As they grew in number, St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals soon popped up in celebration of their Irish heritage.

Chicago River on St. Patty's Day (Panoramio / Uwe Kazmaier)

Chicago River (Panoramio / Uwe Kazmaier)

Nowadays, the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade draws nearly 3 million people, with similar celebrations in Boston, Philadelphia and Savannah. The city of Chicago celebrates each year by dyeing the Chicago River green.

(You wanna take a stab at how many pounds of vegetable dye are needed for that?)

Do other countries celebrate?

Yes, actually. Both Australia and Canada celebrate about as fervently as we do! Even countries like Japan, Singapore and Russia take part in St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Ironically, modern-day Ireland had traditionally observed St. Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday (with laws that mandated all pubs be closed on March 17). Only recently (1970’s) have those laws been lifted in the interest of tourism. Nowadays, the St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin draws about a million people for the multi-day event, featuring fireworks, parades, concerts—the works.

What is there to do around DC on St. Patrick’s Day?

I think the better question is, how can I be in two places at once? Take a glance at this list for some of the best festivals, parades and pub crawls around the city. Also, I think just about every restaurant is amending their menu to include some sort of St. Patrick’s Day special. I know Mussel Bar & Grille in Bethesda will be offering a special Rueben Sandwich with layers of corned beef and specialty Irish stouts on draft. Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery is featuring an Irish Cafe Au Lait with Irish-style cream liquor and whipped cream. Pick your Irish poison.

Photo from Washington DC St. Patrick's Day Parade 2012 website

Photo from Washington DC St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2012

As I wrap up this post, I feel like I should come clean: I’m not actually an Irish historian. My answers may have had a little help from the History Channel (which, by the way, has a fantastic account of St. Patrick’s Day history. I encourage everyone to check out)

Okay fine… I made up all the questions as well, but I knew what you guys were going to ask! Come Sunday—when you’re impressing all your drinking buddies with your St. Patty’s Day knowledge—you’ll be thanking me.

Wear green or prepare to be pinched. I’m Simone. And this is what simone sez…

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