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a st. patrick's day dinner party
by Kelly Beachell 
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The Irish are a proud, defiant, rebellious people. They have resisted centuries of invasion, oppression, xenophobia, and famine to hold on to their rich culture and heritage. St. Patrick's Day, a religious holiday in Ireland, evolved into a celebration of Irish heritage as thousands of homesick immigrants marched the streets of their adopted cities as a show of pride and solidarity. The celebration caught on to the degree that nowadays nearly every American, Irish or not, celebrates St. Patrick's Day as if they were only just off the boat from Kerry.

To most Americans, the only way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day is to pack into the local "Irish" pub, drink huge quantities of green beer, sing odd songs about alligators and unicorns, and top off the festivities by puking on their shoes.

As an Irish-American, I love St. Patrick's Day; it's a chance to celebrate my roots. But I'm pretty disgusted by the orgy of drinking that's washed away any meaning (and every memory) of the celebration, and I suspect there are a lot of quasi-adults out there who no longer get a thrill out of crowded bars, bad beer, and vomit. On this St. Patrick's Day, celebrate the Irish with the respect they deserve and host your own Irish-themed dinner party for eight of your most over-the-bar-scene friends. By featuring the best of Irish food, drink, and tradition, you'll have a memorable, meaningful feast, and avoid a nasty green hangover the next day.

St. Patrick's Day takes its traditional colors of green, white, and orange from the flag of the Republic of Ireland. Green, however, is the color most associated with everything Irish. Lay your feast on an emerald field reminiscent of the lush meadows of Ireland's countryside. Use a green tablecloth to cover the table, and white dishes for each place setting. If you don't have white dishes, someone you know does -- beg, borrow, or steal. Or rent from a catering supply place. Set a beer mug at each place, along with flatware for three courses. Orange napkins would be dandy, but may prove difficult to find.  Use white ones instead. Wrap them with a modern version of a "torc" -- a twisted gold neck ornament worn into battle by Celtic warriors. Head to the fabric shop's trim department and pick up two yards of thick, twisted gold cord (used to trim throw pillows or tie back curtains). Cut 8-inch lengths and tie a knot at each of the ends. Tie the cord around each napkin as an attractive and symbolic napkin ring, and get ready to conquer hunger!

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