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Drunken History of Saint Patrick's Day
Thursday, 15 March 2012 15:42

If there was ever a holiday to make the drunken historian smile, it’d be Saint Patrick’s Day!Saint Patrick Patron Saint of Whiskey!

Not because of the drunken debauchery that has come to define March 17th each year, but because of the history of the man behind the holiday, Saint Patrick himself.

We all know a little bit about his history. While a 16 year old living in Wales he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. He escaped year later and entered the church. When he was ordained a bishop he was dispatched again, sometime early in the 5th century, back to Ireland to spread the Word of God to the tribes.

Within 200 years of his death he was recognized as the Patron Saint of Ireland and the Irish.

Now on to the ‘drunken’ part of the history.

Most often, St. Patrick is associated with Irish whiskey than anything else, mainly because the origins of whiskey as we know it reside in Ireland. Whiskey was distilled by monks in the 12th century in Ireland and then transported out of Ireland throughout the rest of the world.


But, according to legend, it was Saint Patrick himself who introduced whiskey in Ireland in the 5th century. Historians tell us the monks in the 12th century who perfected distillation did so because grapes grew so poorly there (yeah, right), so it would make sense that St. Patrick would have done the same.

Thus, Saint Patrick really should be the Patron Saint of whiskey (or, whisky if you're in Scotland).

And, believe it or not, it’s actually tradition to drink whiskey on Saint Patrick’s Day, not necessarily because he introduced it to the island, but because tradition has it that he used it to teach lessons from the Bible.

According to legend, when staying at a particular inn, Patrick was given a cup of whiskey that was considerably less than full. He used this as an opportunity to teach generosity. He told the inn-keeper that it was a devil, living in his cellar with the whiskey that caused him to become greedy and cheat people of their drink.

Irish WhiskeyThe only way the inn-keeper could banish the devil, and redeem himself, was to fill each cup until overflowing. When Saint Patrick returned he found the inn-keeper filled with generosity and each cup full. Patrick declared the devil banished, and it became custom to drink a “full measure” to mark the occasion (the custom became known as Pota Phadraig or Patrick's Pot).

Today, people typically celebrate St. Patrick’s Day through a pint of Guinness (which is not what they actually drink in Ireland—they prefer lagers), “Irish Car Bombs” (which would insult the hell out of a bartender if you ordered one in Dublin), and general drunkenness.

Now, don’t get us wrong, there’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but between pints and bombs take a moment to sip a dram of Bushmills, Jameson or other fine Irish Whiskey, and toast Saint Patrick.


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