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The luck o' the Irish

March 10, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

The annual St. Patrick's Day Festival in Dublin, Ireland, will begin Thursday, March 11, and last through Wednesday, March 17, begorra!

Although St. Patrick's Day is said to be the one national holiday celebrated in more countries around the world than any other, surprisingly, the Dublin event began less than 10 years ago. It has a parade, music, street theater, fireworks, visual arts and a treasure hunt for the Irish and those who feel Irish every year about this time.

The festival and the March 17 "feast day" honor St. Patrick, who was made a bishop and went to Ireland in 432.

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While visiting the king of Tara in Ireland, Patrick plucked a shamrock and used its three leaves to explain the three personas in Christianity's Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost - according to the St. Patrick's Festival Web site at www.stpatricksday.ie/cms. The king was convinced, and Patrick was free to take his message to the people of Ireland.

In the United States, parades, the wearin' of the green, the drinking of the green - beer - and the enjoyment of Irish food celebrate the Irish saint's feast day.

Irish food is an easy way to bring the spirit of St. Patrick's Day into a home

In Hagerstown, Perry Sanders, a third-generation baker, has been making Irish soda bread for five or six years. The dense bread uses baking soda instead of yeast.

"Basically, it's a big biscuit," says Sanders, who's not Irish.

He likes raisins in his soda bread, but he's seen it made with currants. Some bakers use caraway seeds. Sanders, 42, does not.

Corned beef and cabbage was a traditional dish served on Easter Sunday in rural Ireland, according to information on the Web site of the United States Department of Agriculture at www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/cornbeef.htm.

Other sources dispute this theory as blarney, and even the agriculture department concedes that the dish is more popular in the United States than in Ireland.

Corned beef is made by curing pieces of beef brisket in brine - salty water that also contains garlic, allspice, black pepper and bay leaves. The term "corned" comes from the large grains or "corns" of salt originally used to cure the meat.

Whatever its place of birth, the dish is heartily enjoyed on St. Patrick's Day - "the day when everyone wants to be Irish," according to the St. Patrick's Festival folks in Dublin.

If you're so inclined, raise a glass of green beer or dark ale, enjoy the St. Patrick's Day fare and the classic Irish blessing:

"May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead!"

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