Tuesday is Saint Patrick’s Day, and despite its rich history it’s known by most Americans as a day to drink lots of Irish whiskey and beer. To be fair, Saint Patrick got that reputation by giving Catholics a drinking pass during Lent.
“And it provided a sort of nice mid-point break in lent where everyone could go crazy, and I think that’s probably the reason it’s turned into the colossal drinking holiday it is today.”
That’s Andrew Schmitt, and he loves all things beer, including beer history. It so happens he also went to Catholic school. Schmitt says it’s odd that Saint Patrick is deemed the drinking Saint, especially since there is literally a patron Saint of beer.
“In true Catholic fashion there is a Saint for everything.”
So I asked Schmitt to enlighten us on some of the drinking Saints you might not have heard of. Like Saint Urho.
“He’s the legendary saint of Finnish Americans. He rose to fame when he drove grasshoppers out of Finland, thus saving the barley crop. And he’s usually portrayed holding a pitchfork with a giant grasshopper on the end of it.”
How did he drive the grasshoppers out? By uttering the phrase “grasshopper, grasshopper, go to hell!” If this sounds like your kind of holiday, you’re in luck. Saint Urho day is actually today. Next up, we have Saint Arnold. He’s the beer Saint I was talking about.
“His feast day is July 18th. Arnold traveled all over Europe urging people to drink beer, and not water, which was very sound advice in days of pox, vermin and plague.”
Schmitt says there are several legends involving Saint Arnold, but his favorite is the legend of the never-ending mug. It’s said that in 642, Arnold’s followers went to recover his remains. It was a scorchingly hot day, and there was little to drink. But the men prayed to Saint Arnold, and in return were given a mug of beer that somehow never ran out for the entire night.
Last on our list, is Saint Monday.
“This is one of my favorite drinking holidays because it can happen any time of year. During the 1800s miners, craftsmen, skilled laborers and the like were fond of taking Mondays off and telling their bosses they had to go to a union meeting. And then they would congregate at the pub and celebrate the venerable Saint Monday.”
Wait, so today is Saint Urho Day AND Saint Monday? Full disclosure, Saint Monday wasn’t a real Saint, or even a real person. It didn’t take long for those employers to figure this out, but that didn’t stop Saint Monday from remaining an unofficial holiday for almost 100 years. It seems drinking traditions don’t die easily, not that Schmitt really needs them.
“I guess from my own perspective there’s no real odd reason to be drinking. It’s kind of the natural course of human behavior to imbibe alcohol.”
And that’s all for Town Square 49 radio. For more stories about our community, or to find out how to become a contributor, check out the Town Square 49 blog on alaskapublic.org. I’m Dave Waldron.