Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everyone. Before you invoke a combination of Irish tradition and Daft Punk (staying up all night to get lucky), enjoy our chronicle of the five most iconic St. Patrick’s Day cultural memes.
St. Patrick the Man. March 17th is the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick, a Catholic missionary who lived in the 5th century. After being born into a Romano-British family, he was kidnapped by the Irish. Eventually, he escaped back to Britain and became a priest. Sometime around 430 AD he returned to Gaelic Ireland to spread Christianity to the pagan inhabitants of the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in honor of evangelization and Christianization.
The Shamrock Shake. As legend has it, St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity. In the twentieth century, the March 17th holiday became increasingly secular and the shamrock morphed into a symbol of luck. Then, in 1970, magic happened when McDonald’s first introduced what has since become a cultural phenomenon. The green mint shake didn’t bear its alliterative name for a few years, and the culturally offensive cartoon character Uncle O’Grimacey was once used to market the product. Mistakes overcome, McDonald’s has now sold over 60 million Shamrock Shakes.
Dyeing the River Green. The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130 (what, you didn’t know that was a thing?) has dyed the Chicago River green every year since 1962. The original compound has since been changed to a more environmentally friendly dye. Depending on weather conditions, the color lasts six to 12 hours.
Corned Beef and Cabbage. Corned beef, as it turns out, isn’t really Irish at all. On the Emerald Isle, boiled bacon was the protein of choice. Pork, which was ubiquitous in Ireland but ridiculously expensive in nineteenth century America, was foregone in favor of corned beef. The alternative, first encountered by Irish immigrants at Jewish delis in New York City, became a staple dish in Irish-American households and has since become a national favorite on St. Paddy’s Day. According to Mashable, corned beef is a very popular search entry this time of year.
Lucky Charms. After being challenged by management to essentially re-purpose Cheerios, the creative geniuses at General Mills succeeded in creating Lucky Charms in 1962. The cereal, which consists of 25% marshmallows, was the first to intentionally include candy. Since its introduction, marshmallow shapes and box design have periodically changed, but the general recipe has remained basically the same (with the addition of frosting on the bland oat cereal pieces, of course).