St. Patrick’s Day fascinates me. Everyone, no matter their heritage, celebrates the holiday as if they were Irish, myself included. While I am still very much Hungarian-Hispanic and very much not Irish, I did the next best thing: I married James, a blue-eyed charmer from Cork. And when I say he's Irish, I don’t mean Irish-American with distant relatives across the pond. I mean he was born and raised in Cork and moved to Houston three years ago.
James' first year in the Bayou City was a real culture shock, and understandably so. Food portion sizes were enormous; freeways couldn't compare to Cork's two-lane backroads. But most of all, he had to answer stereotypical questions from nearly everyone he encountered—no, he doesn't drink Guinness all day or eat potatoes with every meal. (Well, the latter may be true.) And yes, Americans—like this one!—swoon over an accent.
It might surprise Houstonians that St. Patrick's Day isn't as big of a holiday in Ireland. The legend is the same, as Paddy’s Day—“Never Patties Day. It’s not a burger," James is quick to point out—celebrates St. Patrick banishing evil snakes from Ireland and ushering in Christianity in the fourth century.
What began as a small celebration for the patron saint of Ireland somehow evolved into a world-wide celebration, complete with green beer and shenanigans. Especially in America, in great part due to Irish diaspora in the 20th century, the celebrations are grander than those on the Emerald Isle. My source informed me that the Irish actually shudder at some of our “Pattie’s Day” traditions.
“What’s with the green beer? Why ruin a perfectly good pint?” asks James. “And stenciling a shamrock onto a pint of Guinness? That’s sacrilegious! A true Irish barman knows to never compromise the integrity of a pint of Guinness. Also, there seems to be some confusion with kilts. I’m pretty sure this outfit is from Scotland, but I know that topic is up for debate. Regardless, leave your kilts at home."
While James had some notes on the differences, the spirit of the holiday, whether you're Irish by blood or just for one day, is special. It is not just a toast to St. Patrick, it’s a yearly nod to Ireland from around the globe. We'll be celebrating the holiday at Chelsea Wine Bar tomorrow, but without the green beers.