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St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most dangerous days of the year to be on the road — even for those who are driving sober. Despite the 200 alcohol-related driving incidents over a 4-year period on that day alone, St. Paddy’s drinking culture continues to rise. On this day of green festivities, Addiction Center explores how drinking became associated with the death of a European saint — and the many ways we can all celebrate without it.
St. Patrick was actually British, but kidnapped by the Irish when he was 16. He was held in captivity for 11 years, during which time he rediscovered his Christian faith. His goal for when he was finally freed was to bring Christianity to Ireland. There are a lot of other contributions said to be the work of St. Patrick, from ridding Ireland of snakes to using the shamrock to explain the holy trinity. However, his main accomplishment was succeeding in his goal and bringing Christianity to the pagan Irish of the time.
There is an old Irish legend that is said to be the origin of drinking on St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick ordered some whiskey and came across a stingy innkeeper. To teach the innkeeper of generosity, St. Patrick tells him that a demon possesses his cellar and feeds off of his dishonesty. Much later, St. Patrick returns to the same place seeing that the innkeeper was overflowing patron’s glasses. St. Patrick was able to then banish the demon, proclaiming that everyone should have some of “the hard stuff” on his dying day.
His death on March 17 was marked as a day of remembrance. On this day, Christians were allowed to indulge in food and drink restrictions set by the Lent tradition. Thus, a drinking culture was formed. When the Irish started migrating to America centuries later, this marked a day of celebration of their Irish heritage. In Ireland, bars were known for being closed on the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death out of respect. It wasn’t until the 1970s that they started opening their bars, after a mass of requests and an opportunity to make money was realized.
The first true celebration started as a “protest” of sorts due to the low-class situations of the Irish immigrants in Boston in 1737. The pride caught on to the rest of the country, where parades and celebrations became the normal customs for this day.
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If you want to celebrate your Irish or wanna-be Irish roots, here are some fun, safe, and alternative ways to participate this year:
While somewhere along the way St. Patrick’s Day became a day to drink, the origins illustrate the amazing history of a culture. Whether you are Irish or not, there are many sober ways to celebrate a fun and festive day with friends and family.
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