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    Your Favorite St. Patrick's Day Traditions EXPLAINED

    This is for the Editorial Fellowship.

    Ahhhh, yes. The day for green beer and shirt-solicited kisses. What more could there possibly be??

    I’m trying to think of a single saint’s day that whips up the same frenzied party-hardy mentality…. Hmmm… I got nothing.

    There’s a lot to love about the way we celebrate this holiday: great music, good parties, and a green river if you live in Chicago! But before you go searching for that pot o’gold this March 17th, let’s debunk some of the most classic St. Patrick’s Day pop culture norms.

    1. St. PaDDy’s day!

    Unknown / Via Giphy / media.giphy.com

    If I close my eyes, I can picture Hermione replacing “leviosa” with “Paddy.” It would go something like this: “It’s St. Paddy's day, not St. Patty's day.” This mistake is made everywhere. “What’s the difference?” you might ask. Well, Paddy is the nickname for Patrick, while Patty is the nickname for Patricia. If you’re gonna pay homage, do the dude a favor and get his name right! At the very least, at least you’ll look like you know what’s up.

    2. The Shamrock

    Janine Meuche / Via Unsplash / unsplash.com

    When most people think “shamrock,” they picture a four-leaf clover. But a shamrock specifically only has three leaves. The context of this matters. In short, St. Patrick is celebrated for bringing Christianity to Ireland, and for driving the snakes out - or so the legend has it. Anyway, as the story goes, St. Patrick picked up a three-leaf clover (now known as a shamrock) to explain to people the 3 “persons” in the Holy Trinity of Christianity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Anyone celebrating St. Patrick’s day should use the shamrock to accurately represent the history of the patron saint, but you’ll probably notice a lot of bars touting the four-leaf clover. Classic confusion. And it’s not a big deal so long as you know the difference! The four-leaf clover is an anomaly. It’s like an uncommon mutation of the three-leaf clover. That’s why people decided that finding one would indicate good luck.

    3. Green Beer & “Danny Boy”

    OppoSuits / Via Giphy / media.giphy.com

    Like most things, once someone figured out how to make money off of this holiday, there was no turning back. *Cue the dramatic music.* But actually, who thought green bagels looked appealing? Green beer seems a little more doable… but green bagels? I digress. St. Paddy’s Day has been a commercial payday for bars for decades. With the combination of Ireland’s incredibly green landscape and the significance of the shamrock symbol for this special day, it’s no wonder that most places paint the town green every March 17th - but making everything green has to be a marketing ploy. (No shade - I’m kinda into it.)

    The other commercial successes that aren’t necessarily rooted in any Irish tradition are songs like “Danny Boy,” and “The Unicorn Song.” The sentimental song “Danny Boy” has definitely developed a life of its own since its inception, but it was actually written by an English lawyer! An Irish ballad was written by an English guy? I know, wild. Not to mention that “The Unicorn Song” was written by the famed American poet Shel Silverstein. Of course, if you want to find some lively traditional Irish music, it shouldn’t be hard to find. Irish-American pride is off the charts.

    (Bonus Points: “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” was written by two New Yorkers in 1912, while “Take Me Home Country Roads” about West Virginia may be THE most popular bar sing-along in Ireland. Ha! Who would’ve guessed.)

    4. Speaking Of The Drinking...

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    Okay, so while we’re on the topic of parties, let’s talk about drinking. The Irish are known to be poets, musicians, and scholars. But they also have a reputation for being heavy drinkers. And somewhere along the line this stereotype kind of became a definer for how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a good time. But perpetuating any stereotype is like walking a fine line; you gotta be careful. Of course, the stereotype didn’t appear out of nowhere. The rate of alcoholism in Ireland is rather high. But that’s not something worth joking about...

    Which brings us to the Irish car bomb. Maybe you’ve heard someone order this drink on St. Paddy’s Day. Technically speaking, a person who orders this would expect a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Whiskey dropped into a Guinness. Tip to the wise: don’t order this. Or at least don’t call it an Irish car bomb, especially if your bartender is of Irish heritage. In reality, an Irish car bomb was a literal wartime tactic used by paramilitary groups to terrorize both the Catholic and Protestant communities from the 1960s-1990s during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. (Trigger Warning) An American ordering this drink has been said to be the equivalent to an Irishman ordering a drink called the “Twin Towers.” Yikes. But don’t worry, that’s not a real thing… just meant to add some perspective. Okay, phew. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, time for something a bit lighter!

    5. The Parades

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    The ironic part of this whole holiday is that it started as a feast day for a saint. Sure, people would gather... probably go to Mass… eat a meal designated to honor the birth of St. Patrick… but how did it become such a thing? The Irish didn’t even celebrate this holiday the same way the Americans do - until Americans did!

    The first-ever St. Patrick’s Day parade in America actually dates back to the 1600s and took place in St. Augustine, Florida. New York City was soon to follow in 1762, but Dublin didn’t have its first St. Patrick’s Day parade until 1931! Sound bizarre? Well, the tradition in America basically grew exponentially with the Irish diaspora. Using this holiday, Irish immigrants tried to unify and reignite pride in their heritage, given the widespread prejudice that Irish Catholics experienced when they arrived as mostly poor and unskilled immigrants in a majority Protestant country distrustful of “Papists.” Think: “No Irish Need Apply” signs. Of course, as more Irish immigrants came to America, the size of the celebration grew, and over time, the group’s assimilation made way for a nation-wide holiday. In fact, in 2019 St. Patrick's Day was celebrated all over the world - 50 countries & counting!

    6. The Leprechaun

    The Simpsons / Via Giphy / media.giphy.com

    “Lucky Charms? They’re magically delicious!” Leprechauns have been portrayed in American media for decades as silly, happy-go-lucky, & slightly mischievous little gnome-like creatures who hoard pots of gold at the end of rainbows. But in Irish folklore, leprechauns are pretty powerful, not to mention quite mean, and often vindictive. They were even thought to kidnap, maim, or kill anyone who tried messing with their treasure. Believe it or not, that's why someone might pinch you if you don't wear green on St. Paddy's Day... it's supposed to make you invisible to leprechauns. Who knows where that one came from, I don't make the rules. Wear your green, just in case!

    Though the leprechaun folklore is just a fantastical story to most, there’s still a widespread superstition in Ireland about other-worldly creatures… especially when it comes to fairies. Fun fact: if you see a hawthorne tree that sits in the middle of a field all alone, it’s considered to be a “fairy tree,” aka home to the small creatures. Don't mess with it. Ever. Major highways have been rerouted to avoid disturbing fairy trees. It's important to keep the peace with those guys.

    7. “Kiss me, I’m Irish”

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    Ever sported a shirt with this saying? You’re not alone. Ever thought about where it comes from? Me neither… until now! Blarney Castle sits high and mighty in County Cork, and people have traveled there for centuries to kiss the Blarney Stone. It’s said to bring eloquence, although many people now consider it a bit of a tourist trap. Hundreds of thousands of tourists each year wait in long lines and pay good money to hang upside down over the side of a medieval castle and kiss a rock. But, still, it makes for a good Instagram post! So what does this have to do with the shirt slogan? Well, if you can’t kiss the Blarney Stone, kissing an Irish person is said to be a close second. Go, get that eloquence! (Consensually, of course...)

    Get ready, March 17th is right around the corner!

    Nils Nedel / Via Unsplash / unsplash.com

    The best part about St. Patricks’ Day for many Irish Americans is being able to share it with others. Come one, come all: wear your green, and enjoy the festivities! Just make sure you try some black pudding (caveat: it’s not pudding and don’t ask what’s in it!), and listen to some trad music if you want to embrace the culture, or “the pure drop” as they say in Ireland. Because really, it’s all for the craic!

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