Catholics given exemption to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

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NEW HAVEN --  Having St. Patrick's Day fall on a Friday brought about an important question.

On Fridays, during the Lenten season, Catholics are supposed to refrain from eating meat. However, there was relief.

"Everyone is dispensed from not eating meat today," said Fr. Mark Jette, of the St. Lawrence Parish in West Haven.

That, of course, includes corned beef.

Last week, leading up to the greater New Haven St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Trinity Restaurant and Bar had 800 pounds of corned beef on hand.

"It's probably down to about half of that," said Trinity co-owner Eddie Higgins Friday morning.

But, in Ireland, it's Irish bacon, and not corned beef, that is part of the typical St. Patrick's Day celebration.

"But, when the Irish immigrated to America, they found it hard to get the bacon," said Higgins, who emigrated from Ireland in 1994. "And, the corned beef was the best alternative."

But, there are other Irish comfort foods.

"Bangers and mash, bangers and rashers, with eggs," said Theresa O'Brien, of Hamden, who clarified that bangers is the sausage and rashers is the Irish bacon.

There is also tradition in drink choices.

"Guinness," said one spirited woman, who had just downed a pint at the Trinity by 11 am.

"I'm really not a beer drinker," said O'Brien, who added "I only really drink beer on St. Patrick's Day."

Everybody has something favorite to wear for St. Patrick's Day, including authentic Erin sweaters, whose stitch patterns are telling.

"So, it's different types of honeycombs or crisscrosses," said Kathleen Buckheit of West Haven, who noted the pattern "would typically explain what family you were from or what town within your county."

And, speaking of tradition, West Haven's 26th Annual St. Patrick's Day celebration honored the city's Irish Woman of the Year, Kelly Canning Ruickholdt, by renaming the square, outside City Hall, in her honor.

"I've been driving down Elm Street, from West Shore to Community House, for 27 years, back-and-forth, back-and-forth. But, starting Monday, I'm going to be driving down Campbell Avenue," said Canning Ruickholdt. Campbell Ave. is the side of City Hall where her street sign is displayed.

It is believed St. Patrick's Day, which honors the patron saint of Ireland, is celebrated on March 17 because that is the day on which he died, in the year 461.