Today's author spotlight: R. L. Cherry
St. Patrick’s Day, Green Beer and Blue Mead St. by R. L. Cherry
St. Patrick’s Day, originally a feast day of the Catholic church, has become a major American drunken celebration. Before I get into the down and dirty, let me assure you that St. Patrick never drank green beer. In fact, drinkers in ancient Ireland had a choice of ale (no hops) or mead (honey based), unless they wanted to pony up for imported wine. So beer is obviously not an ancient Irish tradition. How about the color green? Is it Irish because Ireland is called the Emerald Isle? This is a question that is still up for debate.
First raised in 1919, the Irish flag has three wide, vertical stripes. In reverse order, one is orange, one is white and one is green. This flag was designed in an attempt to join the Catholic and Protestant factions as a united Ireland.
It is easy to explain why the orange stripe represents the Protestants. The Protestant William of Orange (William III of England) defeated the last Catholic king of England, James II, at the Battle of Boyne in Ireland on July 1, 1690. The militant Orange Order of Irish Protestants take their name from the king who originally came from the Dutch principality of Orange and celebrate (mistakenly) this victory on July 12 each year. Since William’s victory led to the horribly punitive laws against the Catholics, this “celebration” is strictly for militant Protestants.
Okay, how about the white stripe? If you were sitting in between two groups who had a history of fighting each other, what flag would you raise? It is generally accepted that the white is meant to be a flag of truce between the warring factions.
Now we come to the green, the main topic of this post. It’s often assumed that since time immemorial green was the national color for Ireland, perhaps established by the patron saint associated with the “wearing of the green,” Patrick himself. Not so. Blue was the color of Ireland for centuries, a royal color and the one traditionally associated with St. Patrick. The first known usage of a green flag was with a harp on it in 1642. It was only in the years after orange becoming the color of Protestants in Ireland, sometime in the mid-eighteenth century, that green became the established color of Catholic Ireland. Perhaps it is because the green shamrock was identified with that patron saint, Patrick. Perhaps it is because Ireland is so green and is now known as the Emerald Isle. Perhaps it is none of the above. However, whatever the reason, St Patrick and Ireland are now firmly greened.
And so, we return to green beer. It is about as Irish as the Union Jack. Or a margarita. It’s just the American misconception of what is Irish. So be a rebel. Be a traditionalist. Be an individual.
When your friends ask if you want a green beer, say, “Heck, no. I want a blue mead. After all, that’s a real Irish drink.”
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
R. L. Cherry is the author of Christmas Cracker. What begins as a vacation for private investigator Morg Mahoney soon becomes a murder mystery laced with threads of local history, race horses, the IRA, family secrets, a touch of romance and, of course, pure greed. More...