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Of Famine And Green Beer Essay Research

Of Famine And Green Beer Essay, Research Paper

Many people today feel the celebration of St. Patrick?s Day is mostly associated with corned beef, cabbage and lots of beer. Some would add that parades including step dancing and music filled with the blare of bagpipes are integral to the festival as well.

These characteristics are true, but the celebration is actually a rememberance of the sad and painful history of the Irish.

One such event was ?The Irish Potato Famine?, in which a million people died, and over a million and a half fled to America. When a fungus had wiped out the entire potato crop, the Irish died of yellow fever, dysentery, typhus, and starvation. They ate dogs and rats, often dogs and rats that had already eaten human corpses. When one English traveler spat out some gooseberryskins from a passing carriage, a mother

raced to pick up the skins and place them in the mouth of her starving infant. The roadways were littered with bodies of people with green stains around the mouth, from eating grass as a desperate last meal.

An ocean of dead. The voyages that brought the dazed and starving Irish to America were a cross between the scramble of the Haitian boat people and the middle passage of African slaves. Fever broke out, but there were no medicines. The stench of excrement filled the holds. The Irish were jammed in like cordwood, gaining a bit more room as dead bodies were heaved overboard. During one storm 178 immigrants were shoved down among the cattle, where half of them quickly suffocated. If crosses and tombs could be placed on the water, one American official said at the time, the Atlantic would look like a huge cemetery stretching from Ireland to America.

This is just one example of remembering why we should celebrate St. Patrick?s Day as an Irish American. Along the way, the St. Patrick’s Day parade, once a defiant show of strength against Protestant power, gradually declined into a pointless annual

march of aging suburbanites and drunken collegians staggering along in funny hats.


Leo, John. ?Of Famine and Green Beer.?

U.S. News & World Report 24 Mar. 1997: 16