St. Patrick, green beer and myths.
There are many legends and traditions associated with St. Patrick, including one that young Americans absolutely love, drinking green beer on St. Patty’s day. And I should know, because with a surname like Quinn, I could down green beer as well as the next mick.
It’s no wonder that St. Patrick’s history has been greatly embellished over the centuries, because after potatoes and alcohol, the Irish love nothing better than a good story!
Just kidding. Actually, most of the myths developed because of something called hagiography, which is an highly idealized biography of a saint.
St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland, turned his walking stick into a living tree, and defeated ancient Celtic heroes, among other things.
Most people don’t know, however, that Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was Romano-British, born into a culture that began in 43 AD with the Roman conquest of Britain. Sixteen at the time of his abduction from Roman Britain, Patrick spent six years as a slave, tending sheep.
I imagine most people think of St. Patrick looking like this saintly icon. However, in my story, A Secret Hope, the real Patrick is a living, breathing, very human man. I picture him looking like the second photo.
In my wild college days at SUNY Brockport in western New York, we drank plenty of green beer on St. Patrick’s Day in the Rathskeller on campus. (I’ll leave out the sordid details about the morning after. But it was bad, really bad!)
However, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a holy day, passed quietly, in prayer, at home or in church. Pubs closed, and it remained a dry holiday until 1970, when the beer started flowing again.
Patrick led an amazing life, and the churches and communities he founded are the basis of what is called Celtic Christianity today. For a fascinating look at ancient Ireland and St. Patrick, read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.
If you want to make your own green beer, here’s the recipe.