“It’s a matter of concern to a lot of people that there is a very close connection between alcohol and a lot of our national celebrations in this country. It plays a very central role in our lives. We know that St Patrick’s day should be a great day for Ireland, but too often it’s marred by alcohol..”

(Former) Irish Health Minister Roisín Shortall 2012

Where did this “close connection” begin, between alcohol and St. Patrick’s Day? There is a great deal of myth and legend that surrounds Ireland’s National Holiday, but very little of it is actually substantiated. The legend of “Pota Phadraig” or “Patrick’s Pot” says St. Patrick was shortchanged on a shot of whiskey and told the landlord of the tavern that the devil was in his cellar gorging himself on the landlord’s dishonesty. Terrified by this prospect, the landlord vowed to change his ways and when Patrick returned to the tavern some time later, he found that the landlord now filled everyone’s glass to overflowing! Patrick then announced, apparently, that the landlord’s newfound generosity was “starving the devil in his cellar,” and proclaimed that thereafter everyone should have a drop of the ‘hard stuff’ on his feast day, hence “Patrick’s Pot”.

When read in it’s most positive light, this parable could be viewed about how being generous with our family, friends and neighbors keeps the “devil” starved and at bay. The Irish are known for and proud of their generosity, as indicated by the World Giving Index that in 2010 indicated 72% of the Irish Population gives to charity and 60% helped a stranger in the last month. So why do the Irish not celebrate their generosity on their national holiday? St. Patrick suggests we “have a drop” of the hard stuff, but did he really mean for us to drink all day?  As proud Irish and Irish Americans, we can decide what we want St. Patrick’s Day to mean for us and our families. However, this close connection can mask if someone has a problem with alcohol.

In my work here in Boston, those who have problems like this find this National Holiday can hide their heavy alcohol use in the name of St Patrick. No one plans to have a problem with alcohol but if you are wondering, ask yourself the following:
1.      Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
2.      Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3.      Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
4.      Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?

Change is ALWAYS possible but sometimes we need support. We never plan to have problems with alcohol but if you are worried, there is somewhere to go to chat about your concerns. Contact Danielle, in confidence and without judgment, at the IIIC by phone at 617-542-7654, ext. 14 or by e-mail at dowen@iicenter.org. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!