St. Patrick's Day celebrates the Roman Catholic feast day for the patron saint of Ireland who died March 17, 461. The strange thing is St. Patrick wasn't Irish and his name wasn't Patrick. St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 5th century with the birth name of Maewyn. At this time the influence of Rome was in its final hours and Britain was left to fend for itself against Saxons, Picts, and the Scoti of Ireland. St. Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish pirates and forced into slavery in Ireland. He later escaped to a monastery in Gaul where he converted to Christianity. He went back to Ireland in 432 as a missionary where tradition has it he abolished paganism making Christianity more widespread. The three leaf clover (shamrock) was said to be used by St. Patrick to explain the holy trinity during this time and remains a symbol of the Irish identity.
St. Patrick's Day was a solemn religious celebration until the eighteenth century when Irish soldiers fighting in the Revolutionary War held the first parades. Irish-American immigrants are largely responsible for the popularization and subsequent commercialization of St. Patrick's Day celebrations as a way to connect with their roots after they emigrated. According to recent census data 14% of Canadians identify as having full or partial Irish descent with the US number coming in at 10.5% of their population.
You might think that wings and potato wedges are traditionally Irish dishes based on the St. Patrick's Day "Specials" being advertised but a truly Irish-American dish served for St. Patrick's Day is corned beef and cabbage. The Irish who emigrated to the Americas were generally poor and this was the best meal most could afford. If you want to try this traditional meal then pair it with a Super Bock Black whose roast-malt bitterness will provide a nice counter to the saltiness of the corn beef. The bonus is it will even look like a traditional Irish stout.
St. Patrick's Day By The Numbers
54% - percentage of people who intend to celebrate St. Patrick's Day
82% - percentage of participants who plan to wear green
13 million - pints of Guiness served worldwide
276 - drunk driving casualties on St. Patrick's Day (US)
75% - number of fatal car crashes involving a driver that is more than 2 times over the legal drinking limit