Created on: March 09, 2013
As March 17 rolls around each year, millions of Irish men and women, and countless more who are not Irish, dress in green, kiss each other under shamrocks, and drink far too much Guinness or Jamesons. As the saying goes, “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” It’s a glorious aphorism for the worldwide celebrations that occur on the holy day of Ireland’s patron saint, and the sentiment seems so true that almost no-one has ever stopped to ask, “Hey, I wonder who said that first?”
Strangely, there is no record of an original saying on the Internet’s leading quotation sources. If there ever was a single person who said it first, that fact remains one of the web’s best kept secrets. But there are a number of variations on its central idea, and much like “Play it again, Sam,” the phrase seems to be a corruption of an earlier quotation.
For instance, a traditional Irish proverb has it that “There are two kinds of people in the world: the Irish, and those who wish they were.” In 2004, Morgan Freeman’s character in “Million Dollar Baby” paraphrased this as “Seems there are Irish people everywhere, or people who want to be.”
The Irish American poet, Thomas Augustine Daly (1871-1948), appears to have been one of the first to popularize the saying with regards to St. Patrick’s Day. In one of his humorous verses, typically consisting of broad, but lyrical dialect, he wrote:
“Oh, the music in the air!
An' the joy that's ivrywhere -
Shure, the whole blue vault of heaven is wan grand triumphal arch,
An' the earth below is gay
Wid its tender green th'-day,
Fur the whole world is Irish on the Seventeenth o' March!”
St. Patrick’s Day has been a religious holiday for more than 1000 years, but has only been a national holiday in Ireland since 1903. For many of the early iterations the bars were closed on March 17 to prevent the whole-hearted drinking that sometimes got out of hand, although that law was eventually repealed in the 1970s.
Much of the impetus for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations comes from America, as a result of the mass exodus to those shores following the Potato Famine of 1845. Initially despised for their accents, their Catholic beliefs, and for their occasional wild behaviour, the Irish settlers formed aid agencies which, in 1848, united to organize the first NY St. Patrick’s Day Parade in order to display pride in their
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