Although Tahlequah doesn't boast a large Irish community, some residents proudly acknowledge their roots from the Emerald Isle – and their St. Patrick's Day feasts are proof.
St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the famed patron saint of Ireland who brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle. The Irish descend from Gaelic peoples who may have first inhabited the island as far back as 12,500 years ago. In the 12th century, Anglo-Normans conquered the Native people and introduced English, which is now the predominant language throughout the country. After the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, many Irish immigrated to the U.S.
Todd Boyle, owner of BS&G Pawn Shop, is a self-proclaimed "shenanigan enthusiast," just like his relatives before him.
“We were established in 1976 by my grandfather and my father [Tony]. Both of them started the business,” he said.
BS&G stands for Boyle’s Son and Grandson. At the time, he was the grandson, but since then, he has become the grandfather and has recruited his son and grandson to help him with the business.
“It is a family tradition with us. We are Irish,” he said.
He explained that his father used to dress up as a leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day for nearly 25 years. He stood outside of the shop, danced, and gave out cookies and candies to those who walked by the store. To commemorate the spirit of giving, in 2020, Boyle put on a leprechaun hat and a gas mask, and handed out toilet paper.
For St. Patrick’s Day, the Boyles eat corned beef, sauerkraut, and potatoes. For lunch, they often enjoy Reuben sandwiches.
“We do corned beef and cabbage every year. It’s the easiest thing in the world. You cut it up and boil it. We bake the corned beef, boil it, stew it, and slice it. You need to make sure to eat it with your potatoes and carrots,” said Boyle.
Some people prefer an Irish "boxty," which is a traditional potato pancake. Others lean toward bangers and mash, which are sausages with mashed potatoes. Whatever the preference, potatoes are central to Irish cuisine.
Use the following ingredients to make an Irish stew: 3.5 pounds of corned beef with a spice packet; 1 sweet onion; 1 pound of carrots cut in half; 2 pounds of potatoes cut; 1 12-ounce can of Guinness; 2-3 cups of water; and 1 green cabbage quartered. Bake corned beef as instructed on package, then place it in a crockpot with the season packet, carrots, potatoes, Guinness, and enough water to cover the beef. Cook on low for nine hours. Add the cabbage and cook on high for an additional one to one and a half hours.
Traditionally, Irish people drink Guinness, the dark Irish stout, but they also like Irish whiskey, which is popular among Americans who are not fans of beer.
For those who are interested in a family-friendly drink, Pam Davis, assistant manager of the Hulbert Community Library, shared her own recipe for a Green Cheers – “Sláinteæ – drink. The ingredients are: 1.5 cups of apple juice or sour apple flavoring; 3 cups of lemonade; 3 cups of 7UP; and ice. Add the ice to a pitcher, then add the lemonade, apple juice, and a few drops of green food coloring. Mix to blend the food coloring. Right before serving, add the 7UP, and pour in a glass or mug. Adults can add a slice of lemon and-or lime with a sour apple mixer and 1.5 ounces of vodka.
Davis, like many in Cherokee County, loves St. Patrick’s Day and still dresses in green every year. March has become a time where elementary school kids with no Irish background hunt for leprechauns and chase each other with their fingers open, ready to pinch their friends. They draw images of clovers and rainbows, hoping the day will bring them a little bit of Irish luck.
Boyle explained that many people he talks to brag about their Irish heritage, but few people are actually Irish. With 32 million Americans who descend from Eire, it is understandable that many feel connected to the holiday. He loves that the holiday is inclusive to anyone who wishes to celebrate it.
“The lovely part about St. Patrick’s Day is that, for one day, everybody gets to be Irish,” he said.
When shortening St. Patrick's Day, it is important to note that it is spelled "St. Paddy's Day," not to be confused with "Patty," which is short for Patricia.