Where do our St. Patrick’s Day Traditions Come From?

By March 17, 2010 In the News No Comments

Its 10AM on St. Patrick’s Day which means the pubs are officially open for business. Today, there will be standing room only crowds creating a sea of green from the entrance of the exit of every Irish pub.

Imbibing patrons adorned with St. Patty’s Day costumes and assorted green accoutrements will sing Irish songs and give legendary Irish toasts to their friends while indulging in all-you-can-eat corned beef and cabbage. But what is the origin of these Irish traditions?

You may be wondering why we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.  That one is easy. Ireland is known world-wide at the Emerald Isle, Leprechauns are green, green is a color in the Irish Flag and shamrock are green. Anyone could have figured that one out.

Corned beef and cabbage is a different story. At my favorite Irish Pub, their Reuben is legendary. Go figure, corned beef, sauerkraut and rye bread is an Irish sandwich. Well actually, the true traditional Irish dish is Irish bacon with cabbage and potatoes. Corned beef is a US tradition that started when the Irish immigrants could not find, or afford Irish bacon. They substituted corned beef because it was inexpensive and easy to find at the tenement butcher shops of their Jewish immigrant neighbors. The Irish made the Rueben their own with the very un-kosher addition of melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. Gee, is there anything Irish in a Rueben?

Lastly, and this one is new to me, is that you can pinch someone for not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m surprised that I’m just learning of this now because it has been around since the 1700’s. Legend has it that wearing green makes you invisible to Leprechauns. If a Leprechaun sees you he will give you a pinch. So people will pinch someone who doesn’t wear green to remind them to beware of the little Leprechauns.

There you have it. Three Irish traditions explained. If you want a good seat, you’d better get to the pub early and have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day.