POMEROY — Originally a Catholic feast day, the now worldwide phenomenon of St. Patrick’s Day has grown into a distinct mix of religious, cultural, and mainstream celebrations.
While many other holidays fall during Lent, historical church officials typically allowed a relaxation of Lent rites on this date, which over time led to an association with alcohol and feasting.
Americans, or more correctly British citizens living in the Americas, of Irish heritage held primarily secular events as early as the 1700s honoring those roots. The growth of the Irish-American population over the next two centuries fueled the yearly growth of the holiday as the immigrants struggled to integrate into American culture without abandoning their ancestry. Rather akin to Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the southwestern United States, the festivities grew from the core Irish immigrant strongholds in cities like New York and Boston.
The convivial nature of the holiday seems to spark creative displays. Many are aware of the 40 pounds of green dye put into the Chicago River, or the Cleveland parades with nearly half a million participants. For several years in the early 2000s, the village of Dripsey, County Cork, Ireland, held a parade of less than 300 feet, the route going between the town’s two pubs. Earlier in this decade, International Space Station astronauts gave zero-g performances of classical Irish folk songs as they celebrated in space.
Ireland has been linked with the color green for hundreds of years, but the idea to pinch strangers without colored clothing is a much more recent invention, and was most certainly first pitched by an intoxicated partier.
Some criticize the yearly extravagance creep, like the National Review’s Alex Massie. American celebrations sometimes bear little resemblance to Irish or religious roots, and participants familiarity with those origins may be even less. Over time, there has certainly been waning emphasis on the cultural meaning of the date in favor of the spectacle.
In 2014, the nation’s largest Irish Catholic fraternal organization launched anti-defamation lobbying towards major retailers, inducing them to pull merchandise that was in somewhat less than good taste. Requests to stop the sale of sloganed shirts such as “I May Not Be Irish, But I Can Drink Like One” met little opposition, and sparked no protests of a “War on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Still others see the growing pomp simply as a reflection of modern multiculturalism and a small economic boost. Inquiring minds probably seek out more information on Irish culture and history with the holiday’s impetus.
As for the market impact, not every event must match the agreeable excessiveness in major cities. Pomeroy Village may not dye the Ohio River green, but local businesses are prepared for an uptick in activity.
“We will have as much green in here as we can, except maybe not the food,” said Sonny Gloechner.
Gloechner is the owner of Sonny’s Bar and Grill in Pomeroy, and said he plans to offer specials on Irish whiskeys and liquors, and will “absolutely” have green beer, a popular modern tradition.
“Thursday’s are typically good business anyways,” he said, “so between the Holiday and DJ appearances on Friday and Saturday, I expect a fair amount of traffic to continue over the weekend.”
Retailers intend to participate thematically as well, and Clark’s Jewerly Store will offer a discount on any green stone. Consider stopping into Front Paige’s if you lack appropriately green attire, unless you are prepared to be pinched the remainder of the night.
Other shops in Pomeroy will offer banners and decorative merchandise, enticing everyone to be just a bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
As Pomeroy merchant Susan Clark said, “I just love seeing all the brightness and green. I can’t wait.”