Just about every celebration is considered a good excuse to drink, but few holidays in the US are as intimately associated with alcohol as the feast of St. Patrick. Which is fine as long as no one gets hurt. Every year, however, some revelers decide to imbibe and then get behind the wheel, with disastrous results.
It’s not at all clear St. Patrick would approve.
Not a lot is known about the 5th Century missionary. A good number of accounts begin with “legend holds that…” But while Patrick was a bishop and would have drunk wine during the Mass, his life was in general moderate and sober. The story about him lecturing an innkeeper who was stingy with whiskey is probably just that – a story.
So where did all the drinking come from? March 17th began as a religious holiday, and hard as it might be to believe, until 1961 pubs in Ireland were closed to keep a lid on festivities, which occurred during the Catholic penitential season of Lent. Yet good food and drink were allowed because it was a liturgical feast day.
As many Irish moved to America in the 19th Century, so did St Patrick’s Day, which became an occasion to celebrate Irish culture in general. Part of that culture involved Irish whiskey and beer, of course.
And that’s why March 17th brings us parades, green beer, and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons. However, keep in mind that St. Patrick lived in an era before cars. While there are a number of Irish proverbs about drinking and enjoying life, none espouse endangering yourself or others by driving drunk. So if you’re going out to party, find a good friend without an ounce of Irish blood to be designated driver. Or take a taxi or rideshare service and avoid a DUI. St. Patrick would approve of that, we’re sure. Having been kidnapped by pirates at age 15, the good saint wouldn’t have wished incarceration on anyone.
So plan your St. Patrick’s Day holiday now: dig up a designated driver – or be one – and make sure your friends have a way of getting home without needing to drive. It just takes a couple of minutes to plan, and it could make a big difference in someone’s life.
We close with an Irish toast: may you live a long life full of gladness and health. Driving sober sounds like a very good start.