Why Do We Drink (More) On St. Patty's Day?

March 17, 2017

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which means we celebrate with beer and merriment, right? But have you ever taken a second to ask yourself, “Why is today such an important day for drinking?”

Take a look at the big American holidays, and almost all of them involve drinking. New Years you drink to celebrate a new beginning, Cinco De Mayo you drink because just cause, Fourth of July you drink for America and Christmas you drink because your family is in town and you can’t escape from them.

But there is some history as to why we drink on St. Patty’s Day, but before we get into that, you need to know the background history of this Irish holiday.

First off, St. Patrick was not Irish, he was Scottish. He was born Maewyn Succat in Kilpatrick, Scotland way back in 387 A.D. He was also never truly recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint either (I’m starting to think this holiday is built on a lie). But it is not, just bear with me.

Succat moved to Ireland (see, he became Irish, kinda) and began spreading the Christian word, and converted an estimated 135,000 people to Catholicism. But why did he go to Ireland you ask? When he was 16, he was captured and imprisoned by Irish Raiders. He met many people while imprisoned by the raiders and working as a slave, learning the various Irish and Druid customs of the time. He escaped the raiders after being told to do so by God in a dream. But as he was escaping, he had another dream where God sent him a letter. This letter contained the voices of those he left behind in Ireland and convinced him to return and spread his teachings.

His teachings were warmly received in Ireland, mainly because of his ability to merge Druid symbols, like the shamrock, with the Christian faith.

Upon his death, on March 17, 461 (see, March 17th!) his followers and supporters began honoring his memory every year on the day he died.

As the years went by, the traditions involved in honoring his memory evolved and changed, much like the Irish culture itself. In fact, St. Patricks Day is not so much a day to honor St. Patrick as it is the entire Irish culture. The color green has long been associated with spring and the Irish culture, but for a time so was the color blue.

Okay, but why do we drink? Well, back in those days, Christians were by and large not allowed to consume alcohol, as per their religion. But on St. Patricks Day, as a way to honor his memory, that ban on booze was lifted for many members of the Christian faith. Well, that one day cheat day would quickly turn into a “drink as much as you can because you can’t the other 364 days of the year,” kind of deal, and thus, drinking heavily on St. Patrick’s Day was born.  St. Patrick’s Day is also your one cheat day during the period of Lent too.

And so as the holiday evolved and moved to the Western World, the ways St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated evolved as well.

So there you have it. We drink today because it used to be the one day we could. But as you know, every day is a day to drink in America. St. Patrick’s Day is simply a day where we have a greater purpose to do so.

So raise a pint of Guinness and honor Maewyn Succat. And please, don’t drink and drive today. Call an Uber or Lyft.