While Saint Patrick’s Day is a big party day in many towns across Iowa and the United States, it might come as a surprise to learn it only recently became a widely-celebrated holiday more for drinking, dancing and revelry in Ireland.
Maureen Korte, an Iowa native whose family is from County Mayo, Ireland, says Saint Patrick’s Day -is- recognized on the Emerald Isle, but as more of a religious holiday, not necessarily a day to whoop it up.
Korte says St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on Feast Day, July 17th, and: "People come from all over as a pilgrimage and they climb Croagh Patrick at night and then Mass is said all night long. In the morning, everybody goes home and they sleep and the next night they go into Westport and all the shops and the pubs are open and everyone sings and dances." At least that’s how it’s done in County Mayo, Korte says, while folks in other parts of Ireland will do things differently. Korte, the special projects director at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, says different Irish villages honor their own particular patron saints in their own manners.
While there are many centuries of tradition behind the holiday in Ireland, she says most places there have only recently made this day one of drinking green beer. She says, "They recognize Saint Patrick as the one who brought them Christianity so it’s more of a traditional holy-type holiday rather than the drinking festivities and that type of thing." Korte says most of Ireland didn’t pick up on the American party traditions until the mid-1990s.