With over 34.5 million Americans claiming Irish or partially Irish heritage, St. Patrick’s Day has become a celebration of Irish-American culture in the U.S., with plenty of green beer and corned beef and cabbage for revelers — Irish or not.
But for the 4.7 million people living in Ireland, holiday traditions have been different. St. Patrick’s Day for centuries has been a religious holiday that involved much more sobriety than debauchery.
“They closed the pubs in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, and everyone went to church,” said Danny Coleman, 76, the son of immigrants from Tipperary and owner of the Dubliner Irish pub in Northwest for over 40 years.
“But when the Irish immigrated [to America], St. Patrick’s Day became an important day to take pride in Irish heritage in the States, and it took on a number of reinvented traditions.”
Although a few parades have materialized in major cities such as Dublin, the homeland Irish maintain a low profile compared with their American relatives across the pond.
Some Irish bar owners in the District of Columbia explained what separates St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland from Irish America.
What’s in a Guinness?
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish might have one or two (versus seven or eight) well-poured Guinnesses. In 2012, President Obama stopped at the Dubliner, located at 4 F St. NW, for a glass, but he was probably unaware of the distinctive ingredient that went into making his beer a proper Irish Guinness.
“If you get a Guinness at any old bar in America, it’s mixed in the tap with carbon dioxide — as many beers are,” said Mr. Coleman. “But a proper Guinness is mixed with mostly nitrogen to give it a creamier, smoother taste.”
For authenticity, the Dubliner collects its own nitrogen in the bar to mix into its beer, and passes out upward of 100 kegs to 5,000 patrons on St. Patrick’s Day each year.
Definitely no green beer
Although green beer for St. Patrick’s Day is common in America, the Irish traditionally don’t include it in their celebrations, said Kenny Mitchell, 39, general manager of Murphy’s Alexandria, located at 713 King St.
So what do you drink on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland if you’re not a fan of Guinness? Mr. Mitchell said Murphy’s offers over a dozen Irish whiskeys including Bushmills and Redbreast that should help give the illusion of being at a local bar in Cork on St. Paddy’s.
Fish and chips, but not corned beef and cabbage
Corned beef and cabbage, as it would seem, is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. Evolving from the Irish bacon and cabbage, it was Irish immigrants in America who quickly swapped in corned beef as a less-expensive substitute for pork.
“Corned beef and cabbage became popular in the States, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant now in Ireland that serves it,” said David Cahill, 43, general manager of Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington.
Mr. Cahill, an immigrant from Limerick, said Ireland’s Four Courts, located at 2051 N Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, offers corned beef and more traditional Irish dishes for St. Patrick’s Day, including lamb stew and fish and chips.
And if you’ve had a few pints too many
“When the bars close [in Ireland], to soak up the beer, you’d go grab some curry fries,” said Patrick Doody, 42, of O’Sullivans Irish pub in Arlington. “They’re amazing,” he said.
This spicy snack is served at O’Sullivans, located at 3201 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington. For added flavor, O’Sullivans offers HP Sauce, or “brown sauce,” a popular malted vinegar condiment in Ireland.