“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.” Irish saying
Saint Patrick’s Day has long been celebrated with green colored food and drink. But many recall Ireland’s darkest hours. For six years in the mid-1840s, the devastating great Potato Famine brought death to over one million Irish. This was thirteen hundred years after Patrick’s life in the 5th century.
The feast day of Saint Patrick began to be celebrated in the 1700th century by the Irish, but it was more religious in nature.
But there were no celebrations in Ireland during the mid-1840s. Poor weather caused their potato crop, their staple food, to go terribly bad. Potatoes ‘patata’ originated in the Andes Mountains. They were brought to Ireland by Spanish conquerors, where the new potato thrived in the harsh ground, especially the Lumper. As one source says, “…the Lumper was a wet, nasty, knobby old potato.”
But then disaster struck. Started by bad weather, the crops began to shrivel. Starvation set in. After hiring 12,000 citizens to help feed their impoverished neighbors, the British Whig government, the richest and most powerful in the world at that time, ordered the relief efforts stopped after only six months.
One million Irish citizens died and another two million fled their country. Some who stayed behind were so desperate for food, they ate grass. Irish folklore tells of those who died having green mouths.
Historian, Christine Kinealy, says about Saint Patrick’s Day:
For Irish-Americans, they think of dyeing food green, they think everything is happy. But really, in terms of the famine, this is very sad imagery.”
What Ruined the Potato Crop?
An international group of scientists believe they have solved one of history’s great genetic mysteries. They used DNA sequencing of plant specimens dating back from the mid-19th century. For the first time ever, they successfully sequenced a plant’s genome from preserved samples, opening the door to further research.
Long believed to be a strain of Phytophthora infestans US-1, it was discovered to be a previously unknown strain named HERB-1, coupled with bad weather, that caused the infestation. The good news is HERB-1 is now extinct.
Still a Cause for Celebration
Despite this sad remembrance of Ireland’s history, Saint Patrick is a symbol of religious good works, and his life is celebrated world-wide with many traditions and fun times.
Four-hundred thousand people line up along the banks of the Chicago River in Chicago to view the dyed emerald green water. Irish pubs serve green Guinness beer and Corned Beef and Cabbage. Today everyone can claim to be Irish. People wear green clothing, look for rainbows shining down on a pot o’ gold, and stay away from Leprechauns. And if you have the ‘Luck o’ the Irish’, you’ll find a shamrock clover. That about covers today’s celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day.
What About Saint Patrick’s Day ‘Traditions’?
Beer – Since many Irish are Catholics, they may be required to fast from drinking during Lent. However, they ARE allowed to break this fast during the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. One of the favorite brews is Guinness Beer, tripling their sales worldwide during the Saint Patrick’s Day.
The Color Green – Blue was the first color associated with the patron saint. But because Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, green was soon adopted as a national color and appears on the flag.
Shamrocks – The shamrock represents the holy Trinity. It became the national emblem of Ireland and the four-leaf variety is considered a good-luck symbol.
Leprechauns – Wise, bearded and notorious hoarders of gold, (thus the Pot o’ Gold idea). The name leprechaun comes from the Irish word meaning ‘shoemaker’. According to one source, leprechauns are undignified, tricksters and storytellers. Their connection to Saint Patrick’s Day is solely American!
Corned beef and cabbage – This is NOT the national dish of Ireland. The custom began in the U.S. among early immigrants who yearned for their boiled bacon but had to settle for beef brisket, being the cheapest cut of meat. The ‘corned’ part comes from ‘brining’ the beef in salt crystals. Irish Stew is the true national dish of Ireland. Originally it was a thick broth of slow-boiled mutton with onions, potatoes, and parsley. Another country favorite is Mulligan Stew.
What’s Happening Near You on Saint Patrick Day?
Luck O’ the Lake – Locally we have the combined efforts of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce and Jake O’Connor’s, Luck O’ the Lake event with other local sponsors. This takes place in Excelsior, Saturday, March 12, 2016. There is a 1 mile race for kids and kids-at-heart at 9:00 am, and then a 5K race at 9:30 am. Live music, food and fun will be featured.
St. Paul Parade – Thursday, March 17th at noon.
Minneapolis Parade – Thursday, March 17th at 7:30 pm.
At ABEL Heating and Cooling, we’re always here to assist you with your HVAC needs. Call us anytime, and holidays, if you are experiencing a heating or cooling emergency. The weather is rapidly growing warmer and it’s not too soon to think about scheduling your spring/summer HVAC inspection and maintenance.
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8 ounces lean beef cut in small pieces
1 (10 ¾ ounce) can of tomato soup
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
Salt, pepper and garlic to taste
1 cup water
1 ½ cups of sliced carrots
2 cups of chopped raw potato
½ cup of diced onion
1 cup of sliced celery
Spray a large skillet with cooking oil and brown meat for 10 minutes.
Stir in water, soup, parsley flakes, and spices
Let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes
Add carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery. Stir well.
Let simmer for 45 – 60 minutes or until vegetable are tender.