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The Sobering Truth Behind St. Patrick’s Day

Americans spend $245 million on booze in the name of St.Patrick’s Day, but this wasn’t always that way. Here is the sobering truth behind St. Patrick’s Day.

If you find yourself among the millions of American’s out on St. Patty’s day, you will see a ton of people wearing green, shamrock-covered, or garb that resembles a leprechaun or says Kiss Me I’m Irish. Some people will try to explain to you that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, which is a popular myth. There were never snakes on Ireland (“St. Patrick’s,” 2011). This story is a metaphor, as the snake in Catholicism represents evil and the devil, which St. Patrick banished from Ireland through the salvation offered by Christ. Interestingly, the three leaf clover is a long-held Irish symbol, in part, because it is said that St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans (“St. Patrick”). The celebration of Saint Patrick is one mired in myth and revelry—Chicago dumps enough dye into the river to turn it emerald green. March 17th is one of our biggest drinking holidays (“Americans,” 2013), but this wasn’t always the case.

Saint Patrick’s Day is an Irish-Catholic holiday that in recent years erupted into a culturally driven celebration of Irish stereotypes—all things green, clover, and alcohol. The original celebration of St. Patrick—an Englishman who was kidnapped by Irish pagans, sold into slavery, and returned years after the fact as a bishop to bring Catholicism to Ireland—was based in the Church, created in gratitude to this man for bringing them salvation through Christ (“St. Patrick’s,” 2011). The flood of Irish immigrants between the 19th and 20th century brought this religious holiday to the United States, where it grew in both popularity and commercialism. Today, celebrating “St. Patty’s” is hardly limited to Irish-Americans or Catholics, having taken on the cultural fervor similar to that of other ethno-centric holidays, i.e. Cinco de Mayo. Basically, Americans have made Saint Patrick’s Day another unofficial holiday, aka an excuse to party.

For those in recovery, holidays like St. Patrick’s can be difficult to maneuver. Every year, St. Patty’s day celebrations seem to get bigger and better. That being said, it’s important to take the same precautions you would during other alcohol-fueled holidays, or any other day, so that you can enjoy yourself without compromising your health or sobriety (should you choose to celebrate). Bring a sober buddy, throw your own St. Patty’s day party, or even attend a supportive meeting instead. Not everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s day, and you don’t need to either.

If you are not in recovery and you choose to partake: have fun, wear green, and do everyone a favor—take a cab, train, or designated driver’s ride home. It’s what Saint Patrick would want you to do.