Why People Drink on St. Patrick’s Day…and Why You Don’t Have To

Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Recovery Unplugged Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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When St. Patrick’s Day comes rolling around every year, people all over the world start getting their shamrocks and green beer ready. But do you know why people drink on St. Patrick’s Day? 

St. Patrick’s Day has a long and complicated history deeply rooted in folklore and Catholic mythology. St. Patrick was revered for many different things, including bringing Catholicism to Ireland and clearing the Emerald Isle of snakes. 

St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in 1631 as a religious holiday, with all pubs closed to observe the feasting. Nowadays, it has become a global phenomenon of excess and debauchery. But how did it get to this point?

The Unlikely Origins of Drinking to Celebrate

The roots of what we know as St. Paddy’s Day were highly religious and very subdued compared to celebrations today. Nobody drank green beer or more shamrocks. 

Originally, this began as the celebration and feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Across the country of Ireland, Catholic monasteries and churches would honor St. Patrick with three days and nights of feasts. 

On top of celebrating their patron saint, St. Patrick’s Day gave Irish Catholics an excuse to break Lent. The Lenten fast prohibited Catholics from consuming meat and alcohol, and Irish Catholics seized the opportunity to break their fast. This set the celebration of St. Patrick apart from other religious feasts, and endeared it to many members of the Irish community. 

Traditionally, on the morning of each feast day, the Irish would attend church and pray for missionaries like St. Patrick. Only later in the day would there be music, dancing, and drinking as part of the festivities. 

Irish folklore also suggests that St. Patrick himself had an uncommon enjoyment for drinking. One story, in particular, cements this belief and may lend itself to the modern practice of excessive drinking. 

In this story, St. Patrick orders a pint at a pub. The man serving him doesn’t fill his drink to the full measure, which St. Patrick rebukes him for. 

He states that the “sin of mismeasure,” or “peaca an tomhais,” is one of the worst sins a man can commit. As evidenced, many who have heard this story have run away with its implications. 

How Drinking Culture in the U.S. Became Global

So how did St. Patrick’s Day turn into a day full of parades and shamrocks? 

It’s no surprise that drinking culture in the United States overshadows that of almost any other country. In the U.S., children and teens begin drinking young, which has been normalized to the point of danger. 

Although celebrating St. Patrick’s Day has been a tradition in Ireland for almost four centuries, it wasn’t always a drinking holiday. However, after New Year’s and Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day is ranked as the third booziest holiday of the year.

In fact, for many years Irish law prohibited pubs and bars from being opened on holy days and religious holidays. It wasn’t until 1961 that Ireland repealed these laws.

Although the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick began in Ireland, it very soon became an American holiday. With the influx of Irish immigrants, the United States soon rivaled Ireland with its festivities. 

In fact, the very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in the U.S. by Irish-American immigrants in Boston. It was here that the tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage also began.

Due to anti-Irish sentiments in the U.S., it took years before St. Patrick’s Day grew into what we now know today. Although it turned into drinking and debauchery in the States during the 20th century, the day remained solemn in Ireland. 

It wasn’t until television began broadcasting the festivities in the U.S. that Ireland began changing traditions. Once the Irish caught wind of the fun that could be had, “modern Ireland took a cue from America.” Since then, St. Patrick’s Day has continued to be one of the rowdiest religious celebrations across the globe. 

Staying Sober During the Celebrations 

Due to its roots in heavy drinking, it can be hard to imagine celebrating St. Paddy’s Day sober. Regardless of what ethnicity you are, it’s easy to feel left out of the fun when the celebrations are centered on drinking.

The good news is that for us here at Recovery Unplugged, the fun doesn’t stop just because the drinking does. Our goal is to help you or your loved one understand that you can still celebrate and have fun while staying sober.

This St. Patrick’s Day, don’t give in to the “sin of mismeasure” and mismeasure your strength in recovery. If you think you might not get through the holiday sober, we’re here for you. Reach out to Recovery Unplugged today to get the help you need. 

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