How Irish is Corned Beef?
St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner which means plenty of Guinness, green clothes, and corned beef to go around. As Americans use the phrase "Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day", how Irish is St. Paddy's Day in America? Let's start off by saying it is St. Paddy's Day not St. Patty's Day. Patty is a girl (Patricia) Paddy is a man (Patrick).
Here in America, especially the northeast, St. Paddy's Day is a big bar holiday. Here in New Jersey there are so many parades that people attend and then go bar hopping after. We eat corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and drink plenty of beer. We like to think we are celebrating the Irish Holiday properly, but are we?
So, what is St. Patrick's Day? The holiday is celebrated every year on March 17th, the death date of the patron saint of Ireland St. Patrick. Here is the SparkNotes version of St. Patrick's story. He was from a wealthy family in Britain (controlled by Rome at the time). He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland where he found God. He made it back to Britain and became a priest. He went back to Ireland and started converting pagans to Christianity. Oh, and he drove the snakes out of Ireland. There were never snakes, but it's a fun story.
What's with all of the shamrocks, green, and parades? Funny enough the first ever St. Patrick's Day Parade was in New York in 1762. It would be over 140 years later, in 1903, when the first parade occurred in Ireland. It makes sense when you think about all of the Irish that emigrated to the U.S. and settled in New York. St. Patrick's Day wasn't widely celebrated in Northern Ireland until the late 1990's.
Why do we wear green? People have associated green with Ireland for hundreds of years. Wearing green traditionally represents Catholicism in Ireland. Rocking a green shamrock with your green attire has become a tradition because the stories of St. Patrick say that he used a shamrock (or clover) to explain the Holy Trinity.
What's with eating corned beef on St. Patrick's Day? Just like parades the association with corned beef and St. Patrick's Day started in New York with Irish emigrants. According to the Smithsonian historically, Irish people did not eat much beef. Wealthy people would only eat beef after the cattle were too old to work or produce milk. Corned Beef was coined by Britain and became popular in the 17th century. It was popular in Britain and France. It was primarily produced in Ireland, but most Irish could not afford the beef. When the Irish came to America they could afford beef and the beef they could afford was corned beef.
Fun Fact Lincoln's inaugural dinner was corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes.
Still today, corned beef may be the choice for Americans on St. Paddy's Day, but not in Ireland.
Sources: SmithsonianMag.com, History.com, Britannica.com
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