Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th) is much more than just an excuse to drink “green” beer. It is a Christian feast day that is observed by the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran churches. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the arrival of Christianity to Ireland and is recognized by the worldwide Irish diaspora as a day to celebrate Irish heritage and culture. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations feature the color green and Irish symbols such as shamrocks. The day also has earned a reputation for being a time when people consume mass quantities of beer - an odd reputation for a religious holiday. However, there is an interesting and little known reason for the association between beer drinking and St. Patrick’s Day.
Many centuries ago, The Church lifted the Lenten restrictions on eating meat and imbibing alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day. While the ultimate reason for the easing of these restrictions is unclear, many believe it was an acknowledgement by the Pope of the harsh living conditions the Irish endured under English rule. Legend has it that , as the feast day occurs during a time when people have been abstaining from alcohol, there is a greater tendency to overindulge on this day. Hence, the tradition of getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.
The tradition of drinking “green” beer is believed to started in Boston or New York City, both of which are home to significant Irish-American populations. Some believe it evolved from the Irish tradition of “drowning the shamrock” - dropping a shamrock into a glass of whiskey and consuming the whole thing, shamrock and all.
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