The Day Everyone Is A Wee Bit Irish

On March 17 people across the globe celebrate being a little Irish.

This annual celebration, St. Patrick’s Day, began in Ireland in 1631 when the Church established a Feast Day honoring St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. So the story goes, St. Patrick, whose given name was Maewyn Succat, but later changed to Patricius (or Patrick), was born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave, where he either escaped or was released. After becoming a priest, he returned to Ireland around 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. At the time of his death, March 17, 461, he’d established several monasteries, churches and schools in Ireland. In addition, several legends grew up around the Patron Saint. Supposedly, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. For these feats as well as his tireless efforts to spread Christianity, Ireland came to celebrate his day, March 17, with religious services and feasts.

However, it was emigrants, particularly to the United States, in the early 18th century, who kicked St. Patrick Day’s traditions into high gear. Since the holiday falls during Lent, this timely celebration provided Christians a day off from abstinence leading up to Easter.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and themes really took shape throughout the 1700s, especially in cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, with New York City following suit in 1762. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, that the color green became officially associated with the day. Prior to this, blue was the official color associated with St. Patrick.

Modern-day celebrations have the Irish and non-Irish alike donning their green and shamrock pins and honoring the day with traditional Irish meals and gargle (Irish slang for beer) or the classic corn beef and cabbage and green beer, an American practice that was eventually adopted by Ireland for the benefit of its tourists. The city of Chicago takes this day to a whole new level by dying its river green, an annual tradition since 1962.

Regardless of your actual heritage, March 17 marks the day of the year when everyone is a little Irish. And some a little more than others. These cities (and one island) are heralded as hosting the most elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebrations across the globe:

  1. New York City – NYC hosts the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration, with more than two million people gathering for the city’s grand parade, featuring bands, bagpipes and dancers.
  2. Dublin – This city’s celebration is filled with five days of celebration, including boat races, music and street performances, a spectacular parade and the Irish Beer & Whiskey Festival.
  3. Sydney – This city hosts a large, themed parade the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, with pre- and post-parade entertainment along the streets of Sydney. For an added touch, the Sydney Opera House and the rest of the city turns green on March 17.
  4. Chicago – On the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, more than 400,000 spectators gather along the Chicago River to watch 45 pounds of environmentally-safe vegetable dye turn the river a bright shade of green. After the morning’s dyeing ceremony, even more people gather to watch the city’s parade at noon.
  5. Montreal – The Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and includes floats, bands and a variety of costumes. The three-hour parade features a massive replica of St. Patrick, which marks the beginning of the parade.   
  6. London – The Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day is marked with the city’s annual parade, with floats and marching bands traveling the 1.5-mile route from Green Park to Trafalgar Square. This is followed up by an all-day festival at Trafalgar Square which includes musical performances, a food market, fashion show and film festivals.
  7. Montserrat – Often referred to as “the Emerald Isle,” this island in the British West Indies is the only place outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is considered a public holiday. The country marks the holiday with a 10-day festival, which includes a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, a Kite Festival and performance by the emerald Community Singers Irish Cabaret.
  8. Savannah – This city hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world, drawing more than 300,000 people each year. The annual celebration features a parade of horses and floats and a celebration on River Street, with vendors, crafts, storytellers and live musical performances.
  9. Munich – Although this city is a fairly recent elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebration contender, it’s gaining momentum each year. With approximately 15,000 participants, the city shuts down Leopold Strasse to celebrate the holiday.
  10. Buenos Aires – Not only is this city home to the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, but the city is also home to fifth largest Irish community in the world. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day street festival takes up 10 blocks along Reconquista Street with music and dancing, and their annual parade features Celtic music and a leprechaun costume contest.

For those of us who won’t be partaking in any of these extravagant St. Patrick’s Day festivities, here are a couple of traditional Irish recipes to brighten up – bring some luck of the Irish – to our St. Patrick’s Day celebration at home:

Beef and Guinness Pie

Ingredients

2 tbsp of rapeseed or canola oil

2 lbs. of boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery sticks, coarsely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

1 cup of beef stock

1 cup of Guinness

Sea Salt and ground pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp of flour

2 sheets of ready to roll puff pastry

A little butter to grease the baking dish

1 egg to brush pastry

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat ½ of the oil in a large pot and brown the meat. Remove meat and set aside on a plate. Add remainder of oil and fry the onion, carrots and celery until tender.
  2. Add the meat back into the pot along with the garlic. Pour in stock and Guinness, add bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours until liquid has reduced. Note: If sauce isn’t thick enough, strain the juices into a bowl and then transfer to a small saucepan. Mix a little of the sauce with flour over medium heat until you have a smooth paste, then whisk through the rest of the liquid. Simmer gently until you have a thickened sauce and then add back to meat mixture.
  3. Grease a baking dish with butter and lay one sheet of puff pastry into dish. Press it into the sides and prick base all over with a fork. Fill with the beef and Guinness mix, and top with the second layer of puff pastry. Pinch the two sheets of puff pastry together so they are sealed.
  4. Cut one or two holes in the pastry top to allow steam to escape and then brush all over with beaten egg. Place the pie into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pastry has risen and has a golden color.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

1 large egg

4 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for your hands and counter

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

5 tbsp of unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 cup of raisins (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. There are options for the baking pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, use a seasoned 10-12 cast iron pan or grease a 9–10-inch cake pan or pie dish. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Set aside. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. Work the dough until into coarse crumbs, then stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. Pour crumbly dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can, then knead for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
  3. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet/pan. Using a very sharp knife, score an X into the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and center appears cooked through, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with desired toppings/spreads.
  5. Cover and store leftover bread at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Enjoy these traditional Irish recipes and St. Paddy’s Day!

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