When Did St. Patrick’s Day become a Drinking Holiday?

St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated on March 17th for hundreds of years. A special exception is made allowing Catholics, and other who observe Lent, to indulge and celebrate in honor of the saint. In the early to mid-1900’s pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day to prevent drinking to excess. That law was repealed in 1961, but according to legend, the history of drinking on the holiday dates back to a declaration made by St. Patrick himself.

Pota Phadraig

According to the legend of Pota Phadraig, or Patrick’s Pot, when St. Patrick was served a shot of whiskey that came up short, he told the tavern owner that there was a devil in the cellar that gorged itself on the businessman’s dishonesty. The only way to get rid of the devil was for the man to change his ways. When St. Patrick visited the tavern again he found the tavern owner generously filling everyone’s glass. St. Patrick went back to the cellar where he found the devil starved by the man’s generosity. He quickly banished the devil and declared that everyone should have a drop of whiskey on his feast day.

The “Father” of Irish Whiskey

St. Patrick may have been responsible for the existence of hard alcohol in Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick brought the first still to Ireland, bringing it back with him from a trip to Egypt in the early 400’s, and paving the way for the birth of Irish whiskey.

Green Beer

Green beer, on the other hand, is a relatively new invention and has become a way for bars to sell loads of their cheapest, most watered down beer. It is said that it was invented in 1914, in the Bronx, by a coroner and eye surgeon named Dr. Thomas Hayes Curtin.

Some believe that the old Irish tradition called “drowning the shamrock” may have inspired the good doctor to create green beer. Originally, drowning the shamrock involved floating a shamrock leaf in your whiskey on St. Patrick’s Day. Today the phrase usually just refers to getting very drunk while celebrating the holiday.

Planning on indulging this St. Patrick’s Day? Read Holiday Driving Safety: When One Drink is More Than You Think to learn more about how much alcohol is really in your beverage of choice.

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