Vegan St. Patrick’s Day 101

Learn about St. Patty’s Day parades, vegan food and drinks, and the man who started it all.

The explosion of green, friendly strangers, and rancorous parties every March 17th makes it seem like the whole world has gone Irish. But believe it or not, St. Patrick’s Day was once a quiet religious holiday honoring the patron saint of Ireland. How it became a daylong festival of food, parades, and beer is a different story. Read on to found out more about the man, the day, and the vegan way you too can join the revelry.

Patrick Who?
The story of St. Patrick is one still shrouded in mystery. He was born in Britain near the end of the 4th century, and was kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish raiders. During his time of captivity he turned to Christianity, and six years later, Patrick escaped his captors and walked 200 miles to the Irish coast. Soon after, Patrick became a priest and went back to Ireland. St. Patrick is widely known amongst Christians and Catholics as the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland (a very metaphorical story that illustrates Ireland's shift toward Christianity and away from former pagan traditions). He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460

Parades and Parties
St. Patrick’s Day has been a religious holiday for centuries. Traditionally, the Irish would go to church in the mornings and celebrate with a feast in the afternoon. Since the day falls during the Catholic and Christian season of Lent, a time when meat was traditionally prohibited, families would be allowed to eat meat during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations only. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade actually took place in the United States; Irish soldiers fighting for the British during colonial times marched through the streets of New York City on March 17, 1762. Today, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York is the largest in the US, with more than 150,000 participants and nearly 3 million spectators.

A Brew (or Two) for You
Over shamrocks, leprechauns, and Irish flags, perhaps no one thing is more ubiquitous to a modern St. Patrick’s Day than beer. Interestingly, Irish law once mandated that all pubs be closed for the holiday; it wasn’t until the 1970s that these laws were lifted. Guinness, the iconic Irish brew, won't be vegan-friendly until 2018, but luckily many brewers have crafted cruelty-free versions:Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Victory Brewery’s Donnybrook Stout are two examples. Looking for more St. Patty’s Day pints? Check out our Vegan Beer Guide. And don’t forget the Vegan Bailey’s for your Irish Coffee!

Irish Grub
The traditional Irish fare on March 17 was bacon and cabbage. Corned beef, the better known choice for St. Patrick’s Day noshing, only became a part of the plate in the beginning of the 1900s, when Irish immigrants living in New York City made the substitution to save money. Luckily, vegans can enjoy the same fare without the guilt: whip up Corned “Beef” and Cabbage and throw in some Tempeh Bacon for a St. Patrick’s Day feast, or cook some Irish Stew, Shepherd’s Pie, Irish Boxty, Colcannon, or Irish Soda Bread for an authentic Irish spread.

No matter how you decide to spend this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, revel in the holiday’s lively and inclusive spirit. On March 17, everybody’s Irish. And as they say, “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.”

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