KT: “So St. Patrick’s Day is definitely a holiday. It’s a pretty popular holiday in the US and think in Ireland now too, but we celebrate it more traditionally American maybe. We [her family] usually try to go to mass. Sometimes it’s hard for you guys [her kids] because of school, but I always try to go if I can. It’s a Holy Day of Obligation, so technically you are required to go to mass. We also always wear green of some kind. I still jokingly pinch people if they aren’t in green, especially if they come to my house for dinner, they know better. St. Patrick’s Day is always during Lent, so when it falls on a Friday in Lent, it’s nice because there is no fasting on St. Patrick’s Day. We usually have dinner with the whole family. As you know, me, your grandmother, and your aunt always make corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes. There’s also usually lots of good drinking going on too.”
Me: “Why do you make those dishes specifically?”
KT: “It’s what my family has always had. I mean even growing up that what’s we had. I know it’s a pretty cheap dish, which my family was pretty poor growing up, so it was kind a cheap meal, but still special. I mean it’s pretty famously what you eat on St. Patrick’s Day, but I think it had something to do with when all the poor Irish immigrants fled to America, it was what they could afford to celebrate with. Your dad and his family never celebrated much when he was little, so it’s pretty much the meal now. I like to keep the traditions the same.”
Me: “Did you ever go to bars to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?”
KT: “Probably when I was younger. When I lived in New York I could barely afford to fly home for Christmas and such, so me and your dad usually celebrated with friends in the city. I’m sure we went out to bars and stuff, as young people do, but it was always more of a religious and family centered holiday when I was growing up. We also watched the parade when we [KT and her husband] lived in the city, but we don’t really do that so much now. I didn’t really do it when I was younger either. As you know, now we obviously celebrate at home with a big family [aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc.] dinner.”
KT is a 59 year old from California. She is from Irish descent, as well as Catholic. Therefore, for her St. Patrick’s Day is both a cultural holiday practice and a religious holiday practice. I gathered this information in an interview that I recorded and then transcribed.
St. Patrick is an interesting holiday because its many different practices hold many different origins. Most of the practices were popularized by Irish immigrants in the United States, rather than in Ireland. For example, corned beef and cabbage is a distinctly American custom that was started by Irish immigrants, which now serves a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. However, some aspects of the holiday practice, especially when religious in nature, stem from Ireland, such as going to mass to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, on his feast day. Feast days celebrates and venerates saints, usually on the day the died. The practice of St. Patrick’s in the United States developed to celebrate Irish culture. It is an interesting case of acculturation, as many traditional ways of celebration have been forgone and the more commercial aspects, such as parades, dyeing the river green, and bar crawls have overtaken to become what the holiday is popularly known for. In many ways, the holiday has become a sort of tourist attraction to Irish culture, one that is usually incorrect, a parody of, or an over exaggeration. Even so, for people from Irish or Catholic cultures, this day is often celebrated differently from the masses in order to give proper fidelity or honor to the cultural/religious holiday. While it is still a day of celebration, it is centered around family and worship, rather than parades or drinking. Therefore, the holiday practice varies widely based on the person who is celebrating because the cultural/religious holiday has become widely popularized and commercialized.